This had to be, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating, the most physically, emotionally, and spiritually trying week in our family’s history.
Granted, we’re young and there are like, 1,000 more weeks left to challenge the 7-ish days we’ve gone through, but it’ll be hard to beat out this one. Seriously, I’m not much for missionaries complaining on Facebook about the lives they’ve chosen (by faith in God’s sufficient Word, I hope), so that’s not really where I’m headed here. Social media is a tool, when used well, for missionaries to build up their home-churches, but not for affirming materialistic American values. There’s always a lesson just begging to be taught in all of the ugliness of missionary-life for the broader, universal church Body who confesses Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sins — for those regenerated, there’s much to gain from another brother’s struggles and failures. Paul actually boasted in his infirmities!
This is nonsense to a world that seeks power through masking a cultural pet-peeve currently residing in their flesh, but an opportunity for Christ’s character and unlimited resources to be made obvious to those fellow-pilgrims trudging through foreign territories toward their Eternal Home.
√ Carson was incredibly constipated for 5 days, his stomach was bloated/in pain, and he woke up 7-8 times a night crying real hard. That means mommy and daddy wake up, and even his 1 year old sister who’s been having issues sleeping anyways. No sleep = bad language-learning and bad moods. Seriously, coffee isn’t even helping any more…at this point it’s just black, weird-tasting water. Mia got sick first though, followed by Deb, then Carson, then me.
√ Our tribe is experiencing its worst drought in 20 years, so it hasn’t rained more than twice in 3 months. Our people’s gardens are caput, and our rain barrel is completely empty. When clothes need washing, we smell, or we need water to drink, we hike half a mile to the river to do it. Crazy, huh? It’s SO bad, that the government has to start handing out rice to everyone, which, according to our people, tastes like pig food. Weird that this is the line they draw when they eat curdled, pig-blood pies, but whatever.
√ We have town power, which is a nice feature — some missionaries run solar panels — but its only nice when the power company does it’s job. This week, they decided they didn’t want to do anything, so we ran a generator twice a day for two hours for 7 days, trying to charge 4 year-old batteries that give us maybe half-an-hour of running time. Buh, what a waste of fuel.
Okay, well, you probably didn’t read that (I wouldn’t have), but the size of that section gives you a picture of what we were up against here. Emotionally, both sets of co-workers went on furlough, the church is experiencing some hard times, which, even though I’ve only been here for 9 months, I’m the “expert” on fixing it in their minds (though they are the experts of their own culture). No matter how hard I try to point them to what they know about the Word of God and how the Holy Spirit is in them too, I’m smack-dab in the middle of it all.
There were some grumpy moments, some over-reactions (I think I got mad at Deb once because I couldn’t find my wallet, which I don’t even need here), and we all cried at some point in the week — Carson winning the prize for most consistent, doing it 40% of the time.
Our flesh was obvious — alot. We apologized to eachother — alot. The Lord heard me repent of my disbelief what seemed like hourly, man.
Missions isn’t hard because we’re stripped of our creature-comforts and amenities, it’s hard because we’re constantly confronted by what we’re not. We’re not lovely, we’re not strong, brave, peace-filled, and spiritual-giants. I was supposed to be a #cool #dad. I was supposed to be easy-going and flexible. I’m not, and the buffers that once could kind of mask those things — internet, friends, PS3, fastfood, music, basketball — are gone.
Hear me out though. In going through all of this, packed into one week in Kuman, we experienced another shock to our spiritual systems. We went through a lot of suffering and hardship, but we hung on. We didn’t pack up and leave, we didn’t let go of the truths we fiercely clung to in tamer weeks. We’re still here, running the race set before us, allowing God to reveal the things slowing us down so we can run more freely. Our view of God, His character as revealed through Scripture, has been refined a little more.
We can drive a stake into this week as a reminder that God grants us the resources in Christ to get through any situation, as Paul proclaims in Philippians 4:13. That stake will be there as a reminder that A) God loves His children, B) God grows His children through hard times, and C) any creature-comfort we crave now can be found in Christ imperfectly and inconsistently now, but perfectly later when sin is stripped from us and we see Him as He is. Miles J. Stanford says in his incredibly helpful work, “Green Letters,”
Trials, suffering, and even failures, are the very food of faith. [Tweet This]
John Newton writes to a friend, “Number your troubles among your mercies, as necessary to keep your soul from cleaving to the dust, and to quicken your prayers and desires heavenward.”
Christians, especially those of you in America, your time will come, or has already. Each trial will be specifically designed by Satan to destroy your joy and your witness, but allowed by God to sink your roots deeper into the truths you already know.
These hardships will force you to study theology, not for arguments in a coffee shop, but that you might be fruitful in every good work. See, theology really, really matters to Christians going through some heavy stuff, living with a purpose, and living as slaves to God. Those who call theology overrated are either confused about what we mean by it, or are captive to Post-modern thinking.