Although I love every facet of the role God has given me within the realm of global missions, the privilege of visiting missionaries on the field in the midst of their day to day lives and ministry is probably my favorite.
These missionary care visits have made it possible for me to see with my own eyes and ears what God is doing in and through self-described “regular” people.
And you know what? On the one hand, they really are “regular” people.
On the other, their willingness to disconnect from everything familiar and comfortable and begin living in places and among people that are radically different than anything they had previously experienced, would actually stretch most people’s definition of the word “regular”.
I’ve been humbled, blessed, and impressed by the vast majority of the missionaries I’ve met, what I’ve heard from them, and what I’ve been able to taste and see of their day to day lives in the part of the world where they now live and serve.
Over the years, especially after I return from a missionary care trip, there’s usually a few people that ask me what my main take-away is from visiting all of these missionaries in all of these places.
That’s a great…and challenging question!
Although it isn’t easy to whittle down all of what I’ve taken-away from these trips into one foundational lesson learned, having to do so has been refreshingly exhilarating.
Here’s my one sentence take-away:
Through His sovereignty and the obedience of those He calls, God diligently and relentlessly shapes and molds every missionary so that they are becoming or have already become a perfect fit for the place and the people that He has called them to live and serve among.
In other words, I’ve been amazed over and over again at how well matched they were for the the ethnic and cultural make-up, the population size, and even the personality of the community they now call home.
After spending time with each of them and listening to them describe the path they had traversed to arrive at the point they were at when I visited, I’ve discovered that the process of being molded into just the right fit was much more difficult for some than it was for others.
But from my perspective, whether the transformation for one person was like a paved road with a few potholes, or for another person a jagged trail up a steep mountain that required regular stops for rest and recharging, each of them has become appropriate/suitable/just right for the context they live in.
In fact, they are so suitable for the place and people they serve, that when I try to picture them serving in one of the other places I’ve visited, I have a hard time envisioning how that could happen.
And I love the fact that each of the missionaries I’ve been able to visit has actually been obedient to the principles that God commanded Israel to live by in Jeremiah 29:4-7.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Even though the cause of Israel’s time spent in a country other than their own was their own rebellion against God, (as opposed to the missionary who is in a foreign county primarily out of love for God and obedience to Him), the bottom-line that I’ve observed is this:
God places His obedient servants just where He wants them and then changes them so that they become a perfect fit for His glory, the good of the people and the communities where they live, and their own good.
This is true for missionaries.
But should it be any less true for any follower of Jesus?
Photo by Ryoji-Iwata on unsplash.com