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