I have had very little experience living on the mission field, especially compared to many of my great friends who write on this blog. I have only a few short term missions trips and one six-month long internship to draw from anytime I would want to write about life overseas. I would tell you though, that those trips–the six-month internship specifically–changed my life!
But that internship wasn’t easy. There were great times, wonderful times. But if I am to be honest, I would also have to tell you that the six-months in Peru was one of the most difficult times in my life.
My pastor always quotes a missionary (I forget which one!) who said that the scum rises to the top on the mission field. And it was more than true for me during that internship.
My walk with the Lord was not what it should have been. I found it difficult to draw closer to the Lord. My marriage proved to have what I would consider some major flaws during that time. My relationships with the friends God had given me suffered.
If you would have asked me before arriving in Peru, though, about all those areas in my life, I would have told you that everything was good. Things were on track. I would have told you that my marriage was great, my walk with the Lord was consistently growing, that I had it all together as much as anyone could!
And I would have been telling you the truth at that time. I would not have been saying that in an effort to deceive you because I really truly believed that everything was as it should be. I had no idea that dark skies were looming overhead.
How is that so?
I was blind to the ugliness of my own heart. God used that internship to show me many things He still desired to work on in my life.
I spent some time after God healed some issues in my marriage and in my walk with Him thinking about how I could not have seen all that coming. I know the answer lies in Jeremiah when God tells us that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked; who can know them?
But I am convinced that one of the tools Satan uses to deceive us are our own comforts and conveniences. It was very easy to “overlook” little issues that came up in my heart and in my marriage pre-internship. I didn’t have to confront my sin and work through things. I had a television and fast internet to distract myself. I had a vehicle to take me anywhere I wanted whenever I wanted. If I was hungry, I had many convenient and ready-made options. I could get away with reading God’s Word just as a means of checking something off my to-do list. I didn’t have to dig into the Word and beg God to work in my heart. I could use the three sermons a week from my Pastor as a crutch.
In Peru, I had a television, but I couldn’t understand it. I didn’t have a car. There were taxis, but the walk to the main road was about half a mile long. So, I couldn’t go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted. Peru had great food, but not so many convenient ready-made options. Things there took time. And I was not very patient. I went to church of course, but could no longer understand the sermon so well. I had my crutches knocked out from under me.
When my conveniences and comforts were stripped away, a lot of ugliness showed through. I had let comfort and convenience deceive me. And it affected every area of my life.
So why do I tell you all this? Do I want you to walk away from this post thinking you need to get rid of your television, internet, and car? That you should throw out everything in your kitchen that is ready-made? That you should go to church in a different language–all in the name of stripping away your comforts and conveniences?
Of course not.
I share this part of my life as a means to encourage you to pray for your missionaries. They moment they leave their comforts and conveniences here in the States, they enter one of the greatest battles they will ever face. They are stripped of all they know and have grown comfortable with and have to forge a completely new life. They need our prayers as they adjust–and to some degree they will be “adjusting” their entire time on the field.
We need to pray for their attitudes–that God would help them honor Him even with what no one else can see. We need to pray for their marriages–that God will grow them together and give them a sacrificial love for each other and a unity of purpose. Their marriage will make them or break them. We need to pray for their relationships with their children and with the people God has sent them to reach.
So often I am guilty of “out of sight, out of mind” with my missionary friends. My prayer for myself and for those reading this post is that God would help us to remember to pray for our friends across the world who have left their comforts and conveniences so that others may come to know Christ. They need that prayer more than we often realize they do.