5 things God taught me in missions
When I first joined OM in 2008, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. Having grown up in Vienna, Austria, a capital for missions in the late 80s, where my parents were part of teams travelling into eastern European countries that were closed to foreigners and the gospel, I considered myself fairly comfortable in ministry.
I had been on six short-term trips, and when I finally became a “real worker,” I thought I was ready to serve. Since then, however, God has used a variety of experiences and people around me to teach me some important lessons:
- I can always be more flexible.
No matter how chill and relaxed you are, life in ministry will challenge your patience in a variety of ways. You can spend hours preparing for an event or programme, only to have the entire thing canceled last minute or with only a few minutes’ notice be asked to speak on live television to explain why you are in a country doing a school programme. Both situations have changed the way I think about planning: Do your best to be prepared but always leave room for God to change the plans. He knows much better than I do who needs to or is ready to hear what.
- Generosity is not about how much you give.
Living in a third world country has shown me that people can give generously, even when they own basically nothing and what they give you has no monetary value. It’s the young child who hands you a rubberband bracelet, because they own nothing else but want to give you a gift to remember them by. It’s the woman in the village who runs to her neighbour’s house to see if they own a spoon so that she can serve you her home-cooked meal with a utensil. And it’s some of my most faithful financial partners who have been with me for over eight years giving about 10USD. I wouldn’t trade a single one of these gifts, because I know that, while it may not be a large amount, it expresses their love for me and sometimes for what God is doing through me. I’ve also come to realize that these gifts are given not out of what they have but simply out of a desire to give.
- Prayer is the best thing I can do, always.
I don’t know why it took me so long to learn the importance of prayer, but since moving to Asia, I have been faced with too many situations that I just couldn’t do anything about – until I realized that God wanted me to pray for them. There will always be more hungry, hurting, and isolated individuals than I can help, and actually, I can help very few of them. But I can pray for people that I wished I could do more for; I can pray that God would provide for, heal, and meet them where they are. I can pray powerful prayers over people that I want to help and trust that God is more than able to go above and beyond what I’ve asked.
- God uses our weaknesses almost as much as our strengths.
I thought that, when I joined OM, I would be able to choose what I use to serve the nations, and of course, I would use my love for writing and people, and listening to and teaching others. It didn’t take me long to realize that God wanted me to use everything when I served Him, that more often than not, He would use my impatience and selfishness to help others. Or rather, that He would use the lessons I learned about my weaknesses to encourage and challenge others. And that He would reveal Himself more in my inabilities and weaknesses by proving that He is perfect and it is through Him that we can do all things.
- Love is a choice that we make again and again, and just when we think we love someone or a people group, our sin or theirs makes us realize that our love is small and fragile.
I never knew that a culture’s driving habits could cause such furry in me that it calls into question the entire validity of what I just shared with someone while sitting outside their home talking for several hours. I am forever grateful that God shares His love with us, that when I feel like I cannot or do not want to love someone, that if I allow Him, He is able to fill me with a love that can overlook (at least until I need to ask for it again) their flaws, odd cultural habits, and sinfulness.
This list is just a small snapshot of the many lessons God has taught me since joining OM, and I truly believe that it’s just a part of what I need to learn. In cultures that are not my own, in situations that I find uncomfortable, in my own many weaknesses, and through sinful people, God is teaching me more about Himself and who He is.