When a Life Overseas is Redirected by the Unexpected
Updated: Nov 28, 2020
There’s the saying, “expect the unexpected”
… except for when you can’t.
What happens when you are living, right inside your calling, and circumstances force you out?
The country where we served overseas usually had some challenges related to the renewing of residence permits; paperwork, fees, and connections. As much as you prepared, once your paperwork left your hands, you just had to wait…and hope…and pray.
This year, in the midst of all that’s going on in the world, we’ve heard from numerous friends about the challenges they are facing, as their permits are being denied. From what I understand, it’s not targeted toward church workers, it’s not related to the pandemic, rather it’s a general, overall goal of not allowing foreigners into the country to live and work, to prevent them from taking away local employment opportunities.
Many of our friends have been serving there for years, learned language, invested in relationships, and care deeply for the people they live among. Now, as their permits have been refused, they are suddenly left to leave their host country, their heart and their work, to figure out the next steps in their life.
These sudden, unexpected turns cause a lot of upheaval in our missionaries’ lives.
Early home assignment because of the pandemic, adjusting to social distancing, and trying to make decisions about life and ministry, it’s just a lot. Business plans are crushed amidst weakening economies. Will the Lord lead them to another country, another ministry, or will they remain ‘home’ for a season?
I’ve not been a stranger to these circumstances, as we had teammates return home emergently for pregnancy-related complications, our team leader took time to be with his father as his health rapidly deteriorated, then our own family returned home in a sudden, unanticipated way.
Anytime when sudden changes blast into our world, we get shaken. We attempt to make sense of what’s happening, desperately trying to regain control of a wildly unraveling situation.
Hopes and dreams seem to fade, vision and clarity vanishes altogether and the foot you try to put in front of you is the only thing you can see.
There, that one step forward, the only thing you can see, that’s where you move. One foot in front of you. Because if we are following Jesus, His Word that we trust and cling to, will light our path.
The apostle Paul faced redirection in his ministry. Acts 16 tells us that he and Timothy were prevented from going to Bithynia, that “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” (Acts 16:7). They were forced to change their travel plans and their preaching ministry, by intervention from the Lord.
We also see redirection in the life of Jesus, after He spent a morning in prayer He came back to the disciples to tell them, “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come” (Mark 1:38). The disciples had been looking for Jesus, perhaps there was a crowd already gathering to wait for his healing touch, and he directs them to the new plan, a different direction, same purpose.
We can choose to rebel against our situation, resign ourselves defeatedly, or we can choose to consent to what God has allowed to happen, and trust Him to light our path.
It can be a long, hard, painful journey, sorting out the shock and panic of these sudden changes in life. But I pray it is also a comfort to know that you do not walk the journey alone; Abba gathers your every tear into a jar, our Shepherd bids us follow through the dark, threatening valley, Yahweh Tsebaoth stands at His post as Commander of the armies of heaven.
He is sovereign, even in rejection. He is with us, even as we cross the ocean (again). He is powerful, even when we feel defeated.
"Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest"
Enter into the rest of the Savior as you navigate redirection.
As we think through some of the struggles that missionary’s face, would you consider joining me for 10 days, praying for those we’ve sent out?
I have a free ebook, "10 Day Prayer Guide for Those We've Sent", which you can download for free when you subscribe below! Take one step toward blessing others with prayer, glorifying God by taking time to honour His work in the world, and grow in prayer, and check it out!
How have you been redirected in your life?