// indicates when my 5 minutes ran out and I kept on writing anyway!
After a year and a half in Nepal, I am returning to America for a 3 month visit in 10 DAYS. Someone asked me the other day what was the first thing I wanted to do when I returned aside from visiting my family. My mind went totally blank. I said, “Go through a drive-thru?” just because that, even after only 18 months abroad, seems like a total novelty to me.
But I also very much look forward to coffee dates and lunch meet-ups with my mom and other friends. I imagine myself sitting across the table, chit-chatting the day away, and I realize… my imaginary conversation is happening in my second language! I try to re-imagine, and I can’t think of anything to say in my first.
I wonder if they will think I’m as weird as I feel like I’m going to be. Will we still be able to hold a conversation free from several awkward silences? Will their babies I’ve never met be scared of me? I wonder if they will think the stories I tell are interesting or just strange and unrelateable. Will we have anything in common anymore?
My husband assures me that these fears will be unfounded (although there is no guarantee their babies won’t be afraid of the crazy person declaring herself their aunt). My friends that loved me before I left have still loved me with all the distance and silence between us. We might not pick right up where we left off, but maybe that’s why it’s called catching up.
We may not find common ground in our recent cultural experiences, but we will find it elsewhere. Maybe this table where we sit needs a perspective only my strangely unique experience could bring. Maybe more, this friendship needs me to not worry and just show up. To sit across the table with my biscuits and gravy (Bob Evans, y’all) and sigh. It sure is good to see an old friend.
“We traveled for two years and visited over 200 churches sharing about our missions endeavors. We spent A LOT of time on the road and racked up thousands of miles. Along the way, we made lots of pits stop. Generally, we just stopped for fast-food and potty breaks, but occasionally something else would demand a stop. We were too tired to keep our eyes open anymore. Our toddler ran out of juice. Flat tire. Nauseous pregnant lady. Saw friends getting off and exit and had a spontaneous double date at Waffle House.
These unplanned stops often weren’t welcome on our journey. They seemed to be an inconvenience when we just wanted to get from point A to point B. But they were necessary. We needed to stretch. We needed to rest, run around, stretch our legs, and nourish our bodies. We needed the pit stops.
I think of the pit stops along the way of our journey to the mission field. The financial support that got a slow start. The family member that spent months ill before passing away. That car accident that rocked our world, took our baby, and canceled a whole month of meetings. The waiting and waiting and waiting for a visa that never came. These things were all unplanned and unwelcome.
But these times were all a part of the journey. They have made us the family that we are, serving in the country where we serve. During these times, we have been forced to seek the Lord and know His heart better. We have learned about ourselves and about each other.
We’ve learned to thank God for the pit stops.”
We recently helped the people of the sweet church we attend honor their pastors. As we planned for the special surprise, we brainstormed what gifts we could give. We settled on some Nepali landscape paintings and were thinking bouquets for their wives. That is, until we were reprimanded for our temporal thinking. Because, duh, flowers die.
Such is the nature of flowers. So much so that the Bible uses them to symbolize the brevity of life.
As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. (Psalm 103:15-16).
Flowers removed from their source of sustenance cannot thrive. Flowers in a vase or blown away blooms can buy a day or two on borrowed water and sunshine, but they must be firmly planted in soil to survive.
As children of God, we rely on the Father to sustain us. To grow, we are only required to abide in Him. Abiding in Jesus, we bear fruit, living the for the benefit of others and the glory of God.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you (John 15:5-12).
Thriving in our Provider’s care, we worry less about surviving and more about serving. Everything we are commanded to do is within our reach because we are connected to the boundless Vine. We soak up the goodness of His great gifts, and we keep his commandments because it is our natural response. We extend His grace to others as we grow. We aren’t promised that everyone will appreciate the beautiful work He bears in us. But we are promised that our green-thumbed God will perfect the work He begins, and that our fruit will remain. It will make a difference.
We can’t use the brevity of our existence as en excuse to not be fruitful. For whatever time He gives us, if we merely rest in His capable hands, we will thrive and bloom good works naturally. He will see our fruit as if we grew it for ourselves, and He will call it good.
When death takes us forever from the Vine, we may not be remembered. But our fruit remains, planted in others, cared for by the One who sustained us for so long.
Are you abiding in Christ and keeping His commandments?
Is His great care evidenced in your care for others?
Talk to me in the comment section!
For more about what it means to abide in Christ, check out this post by Trillia Newbell
We hung our sign in front of our soon-to-be church-plant this week. We knew this would make us vulnerable to questions and criticism around town. It also made us vulnerable to both the judgment and encouragement of others in our city and all around the world thanks to modern technology.
Those who have partnered with us back in America were thrilled to see the work moving forward and eager to encourage us in it. The simple photo my husband published on social media got quite a lot of love for someone who rarely uses any Facebook features.
One of the greatest ways we can live the Golden Rule in missional living is to affirm and encourage other light-bearers in their respective ministries. Missionaries on the foreign field. Moms in the trenches of toddlerhood or teenage years. Our pastors and their families. Your children’s Sunday School teacher and prayer-warrior Great Aunt.
Learn about their ministries and remember the names and faces of their mission field. Find ways to encourage them and get involved in their gospel work. You may be swamped in your own service, but it just takes a moment to share a word of encouragement or lend a helping hand.
Set aside differences and choose to see the potential of the mission and the heart of the kingdom worker who toils. Remember that mission work looks different to different people in each stage of life and set of circumstances. Everyone may not do ministry like we would do it, but we must trust they will follow as the Lord leads and be faithful to cheer them on as they do.
Consider the current issues, transitions, and decisions of the gospel worker. At these times, the criticism cuts the flesh like the sharpest of knives, but words of encouragement put the sharp knife to better work. The kind that crafts into tools fit for kingdom work and builds confidence in the Hands at work in their lives and ministry.
I want to be that kind of sharpening tool for those who work for the Lord. We need each other to get it done.
Who can you encourage in their gospel work today?
I want to hear about your people and your ideas.
I posted this on my Facebook page last weekend after a particularly exhausting day in the Lord’s house with little ones: In my host country, we go to church on Saturdays. So Sunday is my day of rest and Saturday is the day I wrestle my son on the floor of our church while trying to listen to a sermon in my second language.
This weekend, I also get to attend a ladies meeting that falls after the second service/round two of wrestle mania. My husband graciously takes the kids out for lunch so I can really listen, and every month I am shocked at how much more I understand.
In my language inadequacies, I have spent a lot of time listening and observing. I’ve seen these wonderful women serve God in quiet and honorable ways. They have taught me so much about humility and living for God in a country that doesn’t acknowledge Him.
I sit in the circle, and look around at these women whose hands are calloused and feet still dirty from the morning’s work preceding a commute on foot to church. Many of them do hard labor, picking grass in a field by hand or farming fruits and vegetables to sell at market. They likely don’t even get the whole day off on Saturday, the one public holiday of the week. Yet, here they are, smiling and singing and loving on each other.
Some of them don’t carry a Bible because they started working before they gained a proper education or never had an opportunity to attend school at all. Still, they show up and follow along intently to the message brought by the foreign missionary.
She speaks her second language which is many of these ladies’ second language as well. Growing up in the village, they learned a different language than the one spoken here in the city and they continue to speak it in their homes and workplaces. I guess some of them probably feel a lot like I do sitting there and never completely understanding.
There’s so much wisdom in this room. So much humility. So much love for Jesus. Their spiritual growth may look different than those who have more time, more resources, and more opportunities. But I don’t doubt that they know Jesus. Because I see that they love and serve like Him.
I am encouraged and challenged by their faithfulness, by their sweet spirits maintained in unimaginable circumstances. They may look back at me and see a spoiled girl born in a church pew in America, but I hope they see my heart. A heart that loves their people and wants to see them turn from idolatry.
We will be moving on soon, starting our own church and leaving this group that has loved us during our transition into life in this country. Some of them hugged us tight while we waited out an earthquake in the doorframe of the church’s only bathroom. Many have held our children and kept speaking to them until they finally started to understand. And there are a few who have kept bringing them chocolate despite my feelings on the matter.
They have lived the Golden Rule to me and to my family, scared-to-death strangers sitting in their midst. In doing so, they’ve taught us how to love their people well (because not every act of kindness or generosity crosses cultures successfully). I have confidence moving forward reaching out in this city because of their acceptance and affirmation of our efforts to share the gospel here.
Their faithful witness is the wind beneath our wings as we take flight for Jesus, and I am obliged to honor it with our evangelistic efforts moving forward.
They’ve done the hard labor of planting seeds which we now get to water. Whether we, or the next truth bringer, will get the increase remains known only to the One who laid the foundation for the whole thing by His sacrificial death so many years ago.
We honor their work, by continuing to scatter, water, wait, and trust God to do what only He can do. I dream of the day I sit in the middle of a circle of sisters I’ve seen captivated by the love of Christ and teach them little by little the mysteries of the Word that God has made known to me over the years.
It is the greatest blessing to labor for the Lord in this country. The only thing I feel lacking are laborers to shoulder the work of what we believe God would want to do here. I am begging God to raise up more workers for a greater harvest.
I hope you’ll take some time this weekend to pray about your role in God’s work in your neighborhood, in your church, and around the world.
Are you planting seeds to be watered by gospel preachers?
Who inspires you as a faithful witness for Christ?