Modern missions and work overseas are complicated, deeply challenging and full of struggles.
Things we never imagined.
Things generations before us maybe didn’t experience.
Yet, things every generation has experienced in one way or another.
“Elayna, wash your feet… I think we just walked through a pile of gecko poop.”
I’d looked down and saw a smashed dark spot and knew that one of our resident geckos had left us a present right in the doorway of the girls’ room.
Sure enough, I had a matching black spot on my foot too.
Gross. So not beautiful feet…
These are the minor troubles we experience.
Although, at 9pm, after a long day of other such minor discomforts, they all pile up to one BIG issue. They can seem more annoying than they really are. Which means it is time to sleep. Time to hibernate in our air conditioned room, a treat that only lasts just 8 or 9 short hours.
I washed my feet and finished our end of day routine and I reflected upon our last few days.
We’d had joys and sorrows.
But at the end of the day, the sorrows sometimes seem to overpower the good.
The struggles and weight of life here.
The greater troubles we experience in this modern mission in West Africa.
Imagine the spiritual darkness… 95% of it… all around you.
Imagine actually living and realizing and comprehending the truth of the 10/40 window and the challenges the Church faces to finish the Great Commission. Imagine living in that window and feeling the lostness around you.
Imagine staring it in the face. every day.
It is heavy. Sad. Dark. Oppressing. Strong.
My dad and I were having a conversation recently about what we were going to have to report at the end of our first term. I was sharing with him a few recent experiences we’d had, talking about the real issues facing missionaries working in this part of the world.
Quickly, a bunch of things ran through my mind.
Things like counting converts and how that is changing in the scope of modern missions. How in these countries, the numbers will be discouragingly low with years and years of hard labor.
How this isn’t new, the struggle here. Missionaries have labored for generations but the ground is just that hard. The troubles experienced are just that big.
The Joshua Project and their explanation of the 10/40 window. Their website states, “The 10/40 Window includes numerous spiritual strongholds. The billions of people who live in the 10/40 Window have suffered not only the ravages of poverty and disease, they have also been kept from the transforming power of the Gospel. They are poignant examples of the truth expressed in 2 Corinthians 4:4, which states that “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
They literally can. not. see. It is a blindness that I can’t describe. I only feel. Jeremy and I sense it and acknowledge it and this aspect of modern missions breaks our hearts.
A few weeks ago, we all had been feeling a little off… headaches, nauseous, tired… for a few days, and a missionary friend said, “Yes. We feel like that a lot. It is spiritual. Pray.”
The next morning, I literally told the heaviness to leave in Jesus’ Name before I got out of bed. And it did.
But the pressure to show you more is there.
And I thought, “All we have to report is how hard this is! How many bad moments we experience in a day. We have so much to learn… we are humbled and daily reminded that our obedience matters and God must do the rest. He opens doors. He puts us in the right place at the right time… and often we don’t even know we were there! He does this. We can’t fake it or manufacture it or produce it. Not here. For real life to flood this place, God must and will do the work.”
And then I thought, “I can’t keep telling them all this. My blog can’t be one hard post after another… I do not want to complain or make them think we have horrible days all the time. We actually have a lot of great days!”
But God whispered, “You must. You must share real days behind the prayer card.”
At the same time, I was reading in 2 Corinthians and reading Paul’s words as if for the first time.
Words that apply to modern missions in the same way they applied to his mission so long ago.
My Bible notes say that the words weakness, grief, tears, danger, distress, suffering… all major themes in this book of the Bible. Paul was writing about THESE very things… the struggles, the hardships, the challenges of his missionary journeys.
In verses 8-10 Paul explains why he writes out their troubles, the realities of their daily life.
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”
That spoke volumes to me and I heard God whisper again, “Keep telling them. Keep sharing. Don’t leave them uninformed.”
Sharing our troubles, although not comparable to what Paul had experienced, reminding you all of the difficulties, the spiritual darkness, the challenges we face in missions in the 10/40 window… it all has a purpose in modern missions.
These things remind us ALL that we can’t rely on ourselves but on God.
By sharing the difficulty, reminding myself and you that God is at work, MANY will give thanks because we WILL see God do something amazing through the difficulty.
Paul says in verse 12 that “…since we have such a hope, we are very bold.”
Bold to tell you how hard this is, how impossible it feels, how weak we are and how BIG God is so he gets every ounce of glory in this hard place.
Then, in 2 Corinthians 4, Paul goes on to say, “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.”
We will not. Whether we have a thing to report or not, we will not lose heart. No matter the challenges ahead, we will not lose heart. On days we can not speak the language and opportunities pass us by because we don’t have the ability to communicate clearly. When the walls of relationship building are very high and the cultural learning is beyond huge. We will not lose heart.
It is not about us anyway.
Paul continues saying, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed... Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
The Church has the opportunity for a front seat view of what God is doing and is going to do in these dark places around the globe. To give and support and pray. To not lose heart. To keep giving and supporting and praying anyway.
Our report will be that He has done great things. Our report is that we keep our eyes on the unseen, eternal impact of our obedience. Our report will be of thankfulness for a #buggingyouteam that literally goes with us in prayer and in giving every single day. Our report will be of things to come here in West Africa.
We are honored and blessed to be in modern missions, sharing Jesus around the world. Thankful.
It is our prayer that as we keep you informed, keep you walking in step with this process and share from behind the prayer card, you will grow in understanding, grow in faith, grow in prayer, grow in giving and give God ALL the glory for ALL He has done.