After visiting many missionaries in many countries this year, Pastor Jeff Jackson was challenged with a very intriguing question. His response clearly has application to those he visited. But for those with ears to hear, it has a much wider application for every follower of Jesus.
I just returned from the third ministry trip that I’ve been blessed to take this year. At 22 days, it was the longest trip that I’ve ever been on for any reason.
These trips provide me the privilege of spending time face to face with some of the amazing people that Shepherd’s Staff serves as they serve in various places around the world.
I’ve had the joy and the honor of being permitted to take short plunges in to the lives and ministries of missionaries in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Croatia, Austria, England, and Scotland.
These missionary care visits made it possible for me to see with my own eyes and ears what God is doing in and through self-proclaimed “regular” people. They truly are “regular” people.
But their willingness to hear and obey His call to leave everything normal behind and to live and serve in places and among people that are radically different than anything they had previously known as normal would actually stretch most people’s definition of the word “regular”.
I’ve been humbled, blessed, and impressed by the who I’ve met, what I heard from them, and what I was able to taste and see of the part of the world where they live and serve.
After I returned home from this latest trip, a few people asked 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! It’s definitely a question worth thinking through how to answer.
Although it wasn’t easy to whittle down all of what I’ve taken-away from these trips into one foundational lesson learned, actually doing so has been refreshingly exhilarating.
Here’s my one sentence take-away:
Through God’s sovereignty and the obedience of those He calls, God diligently 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.
Over and over I was amazed at how well matched they were for the size of the community, the ethnic make-up of the community, the culture of the community, and even the personality of the community where they live and serve.
As I spent time with each of them and listened to them describe the path they had traversed to arrive at the point they’re at right now, it was evident 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.
Each of the missionaries that 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.
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?