It’s a curious thing, telling your family you feel called to missions, that you’ve been accepted to join a church planting team in Africa.
You’re bursting with excitement and anticipation of what the Lord is doing, while your family, though incredibly supportive, radiates a sense of sorrow-the kind that’s so proud of you, but sees what you’re giving up, that agrees with God’s call on your lives to go, but wishes for you to stay, that knows God’s faithfulness, yet tingles with fear of the dangers.
Weighing the pros and cons didn't cross our minds. The Lord had pressed on our hearts a strong nudge, had affirmed it through our church leaders, and opened a way to go. Like a Plinko chip, we dropped ourselves on the board, to keep following the path He laid before us.
As I look back on those days of preparing, I marvel at the trust we had in God's plan for us. Knowing things could (and would) become difficult didn't get in the way of obediently pursuing this path to cross-cultural ministry overseas. The conviction clung to us like a wet t-shirt and we just kept taking that next step.
Ministry leaders often begin with momentum and excitement. The moment arrives when all you've been preparing for is right in front of you. You jump in with both feet, plunging into the waters of ministry, carefree and motivated.
God told Abram to leave his country and he responded by packing up and going, traveling on the promise that God would bless him. He arrives in the land of Canaan and God appears to him, telling him this is the spot his descendants will live.
There's a sense of peace in the affirmation, when you're standing on land he calls you to.
But, even in the place of promise, hardships come. A famine arrives and Abram has to move to Egypt to survive.
Our calling to ministry, the journey to get there, watching God lead us, answer prayers, and provide for us along the way, gave us the courage to both begin and to keep going. When we first arrived on African soil, we felt like we were living a dream, everything new felt wonderful...
Then, it wasn't so wonderful.
Learning language was hard. Living in the bush was challenging. Teammates had differing points of view. Malaria, rashes, digestive problems were relentless. Reality began to set in.
Ministry isn't as easy as it sounds.
It's easy to become disheartened in our serving, when we face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Leaders become weary and exhausted amidst changes and forceful pushback.
More than one are asking the question, "Why keep doing this?"
Whether it's a volunteer or paid position, they question their calling and their ability to persevere, wondering if they can keep doing this.
Hebrews 10:32-39 help us navigate the murky waters of discouragement, imploring us to turn our heads backward, to "recall the former days" on how God brought us to where we are, how He called us, how He used others to affirm our calling and our joy-filled hearts to love others. We reflect on the journey we've traveled, recognizing the Lord's hand in all of it.
Though that same joy may not be bubbling to the surface, it was there once and it can return again, "for you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised" (Heb 10:36). We keep going because people matter. Relationships are important. Because the gospel - by the grace of God - goes forth out of our faithful service.
We don't throw away our confidence, though we're weary, frustrated and spent, because there is a heavenly treasure being stored up for us as we persevere, as our faith deepens and wafts like a pleasant aroma to those around us.
Abram lived his nomadic life with many ups and downs before he saw the promise of God, and even then, he didn't get to see them all. As we encounter discouragement, wherever we are serving others, may we not be ones who shrink back but those who have faith and persevere.