The CallingThis is what I hear all the time: \”Surrendering to the call to missions is the hardest part.\”
My response? \”Wrong.\”
The hardest part is no doubt: The WaitingWe had no problem surrendering to go to a foreign country somewhere to spend the rest of our lives, however long that may be, serving God and reaching the unreached. The hardest part has been the waiting period that we\’re in, anticipating the foreign field.
Most people don\’t understand missions. That\’s a fact. It\’s foreign to them and is generally thought of in the form of slide shows of poverty stricken Africans shown once a year during \”Mission Week\” at their church. For that reason, I\’ve encountered several facts on our journey to the field that have taught me lessons and challenged me.
Here they are:
1. Most people don\’t care.This is a lesson you learn very quickly as a missionary… and it\’s a pretty painful one at first. Imagine pouring out your heart, having a passion for the calling that God has given you: a passion to reach the lost and dying. The ones that you have seen with your own eyes. You know the need, you know the faces, you know their destination if they don\’t hear of Christ… and you get 3 minutes to share it. You do the best you can to convey the message and desperate need in that unreasonably short time.
You set up a booth with pictures and facts and artifacts. Few people stop by and even fewer ask questions. Most people don\’t care.
2. Most people don\’t respond.One of the things they teach you before you start ministry is to keep people informed about your ministry. So, we send out e-mails, update our blog, send letters and cards all in an effort to remind people regularly of what God is doing in the Amazon and the great need that there is in the area.
It\’s rare to get a reply. I\’ve often wondered to myself, \”Are these e-mails going to a junk folder?\” Most people don\’t respond.
3. Most churches are too consumed with themselves.
When we first got started on our journey to the field, we sent out over 100 packets to churches in the area and called and/or e-mailed each missions pastor. We got three replies. Three. And those were all, \”We will hold your folder for future reference.\” That\’s church language for, \”No thanks.\”
Obviously we don\’t expect to have every church let us share our vision. But to send packets to over 100 churches and not to have a single opportunity to share the need of thousands of unreached people who are dying and going to hell… hm. Without getting on too much of a rant, it\’s hard to be told that a church can\’t afford to take on more missionaries when they just built a multi-million dollar building with toilets that automatically flush. Just sayin\’.
I\’ve often thought of writing these churches and saying, \”In the future, please just slap me in the face instead of telling me that you can\’t afford missions. That will be less painful. Thank you!\”
4. A lot of people don\’t do what they say they will do.
If every person and church who has told us that they would support us actually supported us, we would be at about 75% of our support (we are at 50% right now).
We\’ve had pastors tell us to our face that they will give us the opportunity to share with their church if we just tell them the date. Fast forward one week later when we try to tell them the date that works for us: no replies to our e-mails and no call backs to our messages. Hm.
The same could be said for individuals. \”Life just gets in the way.\” A lot of people don\’t do what they say they will do.
Now, before you think I\’m being judgmental. Let me tell you the lesson these four points have taught me.
1. Most of the time, I don\’t care.
How many times in my life has God tried to tell me something. He\’s given me His Word and the beautiful world around me. He\’s blessed me beyond all reason and poured His Son\’s blood out for me. He loves me desperately and wants me to know Him and talk to Him, to ask Him questions and hear from Him.
Sometimes I\’ll read His Word and pray. Most of the time, I don\’t care.
2. Most of the time, I don\’t respond.
I have probably four Bibles, not including the two on my ipod. Four Bibles. Four. There are places in the world where people cling to one PAGE of the Bible. There are other places where people rely on what they have memorized of the Scriptures. If that were the case for me, I\’d be in big trouble. God speaks through His Word, but most of the time, I don\’t respond. I give Him a few minutes a day and ask Him to bless me for it. Most of the time, I don\’t respond.
3. Most of the time, I\’m too consumed with myself.
I try to think back on my life and all the times that I\’ve been too busy for God… then I get overwhelmed because there have been so many times! I tell God I can\’t do more for Him because I don\’t have the time or the resources. But yesterday, I made sure I got on Facebook and I bought a $4 drink from Starbucks.
I wonder if God would rather me slap Him in the face than tell Him I can\’t do more for Him…
Most of the time, I\’m too consumed with myself.
4. A lot of times I don\’t do what I say I\’m going to do.
I\’m glad that God is faithful to forgive us when we ask because there have been countless times that I have not done what I told God I would do. If I did all the things that God has told me to do, I can only imagine what He could have done through me and who He could have reached if I had kept my promise.
\”Life just gets in the way.\” A lot of times, I don\’t do what I say I\’m going to do.
What\’s the lesson I\’ve learned from this journey (or at least one of them)? I\’m just like everyone else. And I\’m really, really thankful that God is merciful and gracious to me.
So, anytime I get overwhelmed or frustrated with people and how they let me down, I just remind myself how often I let God down and yet somehow He forgives me and loves me just the same. That cures my ill-will pretty quickly.
\”Why do you see the speck that is in your brother\’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, \’Let me take the speck out of your eye,\’ when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother\’s eye.\”- Jesus Christ
11 thoughts on “Confessions of a Missionary”
Right on guys. I'm glad for the \”confession\” you make of these four points at the end. You need to remind yourself of those often less you become so cynical that you cannot see the glory of God for the sinfulness of your fellow humans (even fellow Christians).Know that there is at least one family in Oklahoma that cares greatly about what you guys are doing. I read your updates and have you in my prayers. So thankful for your passion for the unreached.Please come visit us in Oklahoma! Richard can fly. No excuses (smiles).
Richard & Ashley,I always enjoy reading your blog. I am sure it can be disheartening to see so many people uninterested in missions. As we talked about, it doesn't really set in with so many people until they have experienced missions first-hand. As I have prayed, observed various missionaries and contemplated full time mission work in the future, it is evident that it can be very unrewarding from a human's perspective. At the same time, many people sincerely care and are praying, but you don't always know it. The enemy is quick to try and discourage us with this.However, we can be assured of one thing. God sees, hears and he honors the work and the prayers of His children. I can see that God is using these experiences to prepare you guys for the mission field, so that you will be even stronger and more reliant upon Him when the time has finally come to go to Brazil permanently!Romans 5:3-53 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Thanks for being so honest and transparent; your blogs have been an encouragement to me and to many others. Please know that we are praying for you guys regularly.
Thanks Ben! I guess I should have added in there that we have a lot people who DO encourage us and DO pray for us. God has made Himself so real in so many ways since we began this \”ride\” and it's always in the most unexpected ways… ways that bring us to our knees saying, \”You are in control. Not us.\” You and your family have been a tremendous blessing to us, even so far away :)And yes, we do need to visit… I'll have Richard book the plane now ;)Austin, thanks for the encouragement.I feel like if I'm honest with others, it helps me see myself more honestly. I think transparency is something missing in \”Christian\” culture today. You are a blessing to Richard and me. You are right that there are a lot of people out there who care… thanks for being one of those!
love you and this post 🙂
Some of the things you guys mention are things we have gone through or have felt in our time of raising support. Though we are on the field, we dp not have our full support… No doubt God uses the time with support raising to prepare us and grow our faith for when we are on the field.Praying you guys can soon reach your goal and be in Brazil full time! Susy Esquivel
Thanks for the blog entry, Ashley! I really appreciated reading it. I hope the Lord allows our paths to cross again someday.
I am sure it seems it is taking a long time for you guys to get on the field and I know that is your hearts desire. I believe God is giving me this time as He knows when you are gone these days will never be again. I am thankful ya'll are still here especially having just had the funeral. What a blessing the three of you were to the two of us during this time. YOUR DAY WILL COME! BE ENCOURAGED! KEEP YOUR EYES UP NOT OUT! LUV U 3
Oh, I think I have found a new friend! Yes indeed the waiting by far is the hardest part! And maybe planning to move to a place I have never seen, where there is no house yet for us…but waiting kills me! If I had a date, I would do better I think. But then there is that walking by faith thing…sigh.Anyway, found you on my dashboard and so glad to read of another on this same journey! Amazing how God works huh? Have a fantastic and productive time in Brazil!
Great story and website. May God always bless your ministry.
Thank you for this post. I know it is 4 years old, but it rings so true for what we have experienced as well and it is so hard sometimes not to get frustrated. We have been in Panama for 2 years now and we went in faith without raising support. I appreciate your reminders at the bottom as well.You have a beautiful family. I really enjoyed browsing your blog!
Thanks for reading, Rebekah! We have friends serving in Panama as well and have been there once to visit them. May God bless you in your work for Him!