My beloved missionary families. I know there's a lot of you who are hurting right now.
I know, you have packed up and left, to follow God’s call on your life. To serve Him. To make Him known across the world. You’ve spent months in prayer and preparation, slogging through the struggles of raising financial support. You’ve boarded that plane with 12 pieces of luggage, said goodbye to family and friends, to the only life you’ve known and traversed into the great unknown.
You’ve met new people to pour your heart and life into.The dorm boys you love and adore - despite their teenage craziness. The nomadic herdsmen you provide water for, as they pass by your stand-alone desert home. The indigenous workers who help teach you language and building skills. The camp kids and staff whose energy abounds. The poor living in the Mexican slums who just need a clean, safe home to live in. The subsistence farmer in Africa who doesn’t know how to better provide for his family.
Your heart has loved your calling. You’ve seen God at work. You’ve experienced joy and adventure in your sacrificial service for His kingdom. Your love for people has grown so much, sometimes you thought your heart couldn’t hold it all in. Hearing our Almighty Father’s name praised in the local tongue has given you a taste of heaven’s multi-culture choir and your spirit rejoices in His church.
There’s times when you sit in wonder, and can’t believe this is your life!
It’s not been easy though, I know. Language didn’t come as quickly as you thought it would. The coworkers around you didn’t receive you with acceptance, rather rejection. Money for projects didn’t seem to come when you needed it. But you persevered, you sought the Lord, His leading and guiding, and you learned to trust Him more as you stepped along the rocky path He led you on.
Then, the unthinkable happens.
Your child develops leukemia and you are on an emergency medical flight back to America to enter the chaotic season of treatments. The twin pregnancy you are carrying develops complications and you leave urgently, without getting to say goodbye. The colleagues with you on the field don’t see things the way you do, you try to communicate your perspective, and share your heart, but then you are asked (if not told) to leave because of “irreconcilable differences.”
You sit there, immobilized, just totally astounded, and you can’t believe this is your life.
You ask, What in the world are you doing here, Lord? Why would you allow all the time and effort to move overseas, just to bring us back so soon?
And you don’t hear an answer.
You didn’t ask for this. I know it wasn’t your choice for things to turn out this way. You wanted to serve God in this ministry for years. You’d committed, planned and given up everything to be there. I know you’re wondering: Why do we have to leave now? Why does it have to be this way? Why does it have to be so full of pain and sorrow?!
“He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted” Isaiah 61:1
My heart breaks for all that you are feeling. I am sorry for the wounds inflicted upon you. I’m sorry that sickness ravages our physical bodies, and that you and your family are suffering. I’m sorry that the re-entry transition isn’t easy and brings more struggles and questions.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” Psalm 147:3
Three years ago I was in that stuck place. Our family entered that season of the uexpected. I remember it all too well. I’ve traversed this path before you, I want to encourage you. You are not alone, and God will bring you through this season!
It is through these difficult seasons, dear missionary, that God is pruning you, yes you. John 15 teaches us that God prunes those who are already bearing fruit, so that we can, in turn, bear MORE fruit.
I know it is easy to talk about, but it's not easy to live in.
It is inside the deep pain you feel where God wants to meet you. To bind up your pain, to heal your wounds, to sanctify you. His desire is for you to continue leading well throughout your life, in the good times and in the bad.
So, as you walk through your day:
1. Recite Truth To Yourself, and Your Family, Over and Over Again
Yes, those feelings of desperation will overwhelm you. You will feel lost and lonely, like you came off the Sizzler and your body hasn't figured out that you've stopped moving.
These times of testing can cause your mind to swirl with thoughts, doubts and uncertainties. God’s Word is the only truth you will find in the chaos of bouncing emotions and re-entry shock. So keep digging into the Word and memorizing, keep notecards of scripture on your desk and in your bag, write the words on your mirror.
2. Worship With All You Can Give
It's because of God's Truth you are going to get through this. It is His grace and hope that will lead and guide you. It is His glorious Gospel that saves you and heals you. His love and faithfulness don't ever change.
Your kids will need to see you grieve, they are grieving too. But don’t forget to remind them and yourselves, of the biblical truths of who God is and His purposes for us. Dive into worship and song, even when your emotions don't feel like it, let yourself speak and sing truth. Rejoice in the One who saves you.
3. Find Your People
Your story may be hard to share. There will be many who won't understand what you are going through. But an important part of healing, is sharing with those who will pray, encourage and help restore you as you journey. Even if others don't understand, ask them to pray. Help them know how to pray specifically for you, be vulnerable and open.
The trained, listening, ear of a professional counsellor is something we also found immensely helpful and played a big role for us as we returned. Helping us process our emotions, and the wounds we were carrying.
Dear missionary, you are loved. We are here for you. We are praying for you. Remember in this painful season, that God has you right where you are supposed to be. It's not what you expected, or what you would have wished for, but this journey He has you on will shape you and your future, it will shape who you are becoming.
God's heart is for you. His love never fails, His mercies are new every morning. Be encouraged, beloved friend, you are not alone.
Have you experienced unplanned circumstances in your life? How were people around you able to support and encourage you?