But when I have asked the girls at the Bible college if they are excited that they will be graduating soon, their reaction is hesitant. I got the same response when I asked last year's graduates, too.
"I feel afraid." In my mind, I am thinking maybe they are afraid of the speech they have to give or afraid of being in front of people; but as they explain, I find it is something much more serious.
"After that, then what to do?"
After that... Then what? They have reached the goal, but with the achievement comes challenges. Some of these girls will have to return to their home villages and stay with their families since after graduation they cannot remain in the dorms. Many of their villages do not have a church. They may even be returning as the only Christian in the village. The reality of isolation sets in.
Yes, that would be pretty frightening and challenging. It would be much simpler if they could just live in the dorm, attend the same church, and keep attending college forever.
Graduation... After that... Then what? I got my diploma... So now what?
Sometimes we all are faced with feeling a myriad of emotions, two of which are excitement and fear. We reach a goal or an open door of opportunity, and we find ourselves asking, "What do I do now?" And the isolation? It is amazing to me how I can be sitting in a room full of people and yet feel so isolated. The barrier of language and culture is sometimes overwhelming.
For me... I graduated from deputation. I reached the field... So now what?
After that, it is time to DO what I have learned to do.
It is time to put into practice what I have been taught. No, not things like playing the piano, passing out tracts, and teaching ladies meetings. Things much more serious than that.
1) I have learned how to feed in God's Word.
I remember when my children were young enough that I had to feed them. They could open their mouths, but no matter how hard they tried they could not get food in their own mouths. A big milestone in their development was when they learned to pick up Cheerios, hold their own bottles, hold a spoon, and eventually they were able to completely feed themselves.
As I sit in church in my new country, I cannot understand what the preacher is saying. Sometimes the congregation laughs or "amens," and I sit their like a knot on a log. They scribble notes in their notebooks for future reference. Their heads nod in agreement. Sometimes a tear fills their eye. I sit their with my spiritual mouth gaping open, yet no one is bringing the spoon to my mouth. If I do not feed myself a healthy spiritual diet, I will become spiritually malnourished.
It was easy in the States. Yes, I did devotions through the whole week, but it was easy to count on someone else at least three times a week to feed me. They labored in the Word, and I reaped the benefits as they shoveled it in my mouth each church service.
But now it is time for me to pick up the spoon and go beyond just personal devotions and family devotions. Now is the time to labor in God's Word and to find nourishment from all the avenues God has blessed me with. Praise the Lord for Internet and downloadable sermons in English! Praise the Lord that I can easily listen to English songs!
God has placed our family (and many other missionary families) in situations where we cannot depend on someone else to pick up the spiritual spoon for us in the church setting. (I look forward to the day when this happens again, but the fact of the matter is... that time is not right now.) But He has trained me how to pick up the spoon myself... how to find spiritual food to keep me healthy.
So now what?
Pick up the spoon.
Sources of great sermons online:
(This pastor's sermons are full of meat! Love it!)
Sources of great music:
There are several local radio stations in the States that have internet ministries. Too many to list! But here are a couple of internet ministries that have been a blessing:
(I love that this one has several "stations" to choose from. There is an instrumental station for when we are doing school, a seasonal station for when we really need a holiday pick-me-up, and even a children's station!)
Psalm 22:26 "The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever."
2) I have learned how to have intimate fellowship with the Lord.
We had one child who we thought would never walk. It wasn't that he couldn't. He was just quite content sitting or crawling. He loved to be held and carried. When he finally learned to walk, he enjoyed it very much. Matter of fact, he rarely can be still now! But one of his favorite things is to crawl up in Daddy's lap. He loves to hang out with Daddy. When Daddy works, he works. When Daddy rests, he wants to be close to him. He is Daddy's little shadow. He loves fellowshipping with his Daddy and learning from him.
I have to admit, I really miss the close fellowship of our home church. It is difficult feeling like the outsider. The people of the church try hard. It isn't their fault. We just don't understand each other enough to have intimate fellowship!
When I first became a Christian, I thought I really knew Him. It wasn't His fault that I didn't have a close, intimate relationship with Him. But as I have grown in the Lord, oh how sweet true, intimate fellowship has become! He has taught me how to be a Mary, although I sure struggle keeping my Martha nature in check sometimes! He has taught me how to sit at His feet and hear His voice and to talk to Him. He has taught me that no matter how alone I feel, He is there... And HE IS ENOUGH! I have learned to walk, but I need to remember to sit.
Though I may not be able to have a close, intimate fellowship with my church family here right now, I can have a close, intimate, and SATISFYING fellowship with my Saviour.
So now what?
Sit at His feet.
Luke 10:42 "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
3) I have learned how to encourage myself in the Lord.
My children love to swim, but I remember when our oldest child was still getting over his fear of water. Daddy would take him out in the water at the beach or at a pool. Occasionally, water would splash in his little face or his head would go under water for a fraction of a second as they jumped in the pool.
Ben would look up at his Daddy in a panic. But when he saw that his Daddy had a smile on his face, Ben would relax and smile, too. When he would look up at his Daddy, he was checking to see if Daddy was afraid. If Daddy was afraid, that meant he needed to be afraid, too. Daddy was never afraid. Daddy’s smile encouraged Ben.
Sometimes we look around to be encouraged by others. We feel like we are in way over our heads. When we do not find the encouragement we need from others, we panic. Instead, we need to learn to look to our Father. He is not panicking. He is not afraid. He is smiling. We may feel like we have jumped in water over our heads, but we have never jumped in water over HIS head!
So now what?
Look for His smile.
1 Samuel 30:6 “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.”
4) I have learned how to keep pressing forward.
I remember one day, the same child that likes so much to work with Daddy had a big task to accomplish. It was no small thing for his small body.
It had snowed 17 inches. The kids and Daddy all decided to go sledding down the hill across the road from our house. I do not enjoy being cold, but I agreed to step outside long enough to snap a few pictures. That is usually the extent of my snow adventures. (Sorry! I do not get the Mom-of-the-Year Award when it comes to snow!)
They had a blast sledding down the long hill, but coming back up was not so fun. Gabriel, our youngest, had to trek back up the hill with his little legs. Even in the packed down snow, it was difficult for him. He was dragging his little sled behind him. He was about 20 feet from the top and extremely tired. Suddenly we heard him desperately yelling, “Up!” “Up!” …. “Uuuuupppp!”
This four year old boy was literally willing his feet to take the next steps. He refused to quit until he reached the top. With every step, he yelled at his feet, “Up!” He pressed forward. He was not strolling forward and casually floating across the finish line. The walk was grueling, tough, painful even. He PRESSED! (And with a little help, he succeeded!)
As our family is about to finish the first year on the field, I am reminded that there are times when I will not be able to just causally walk... I will have to press! The rosy glasses view of missions is long gone! There were not people waiting at the airport for us when we arrived saying, “We have been waiting for you to come tell us about Jesus so we could be saved.” We did not learn the language in six months. We do not have overwhelming mushy gushy love for the place… and sometimes not even for the people.
What we do have is an undeniable calling. We have a Saviour whom we love and desire to please. We have a goal. And when things get tough, that is not the time to look back!
Could you imagine little Gabriel in the snow looking back toward the bottom? That would not make much sense, now would it? What’s down there for him? NOTHING! If he turned back and gave up… yes, going downhill is easier. But when he got to the bottom, then what? There would be an overwhelming hill staring him in the face.
Yes, going back to the States would be easy in one sense… but then I would have a hill staring me in the face for the rest of my life. The hill I never finished climbing…
Instead, when things get tough, I want to press forward. My Father is walking with me, strengthening me, helping me. He has called me, and by His grace I want to climb this hill. (1Th 5:24 “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”)
Philippians 3:13-14 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
So now what?
Yell “up” until you reach the finish line.
I have LEARNED all these things, but what good does it do me if I do not put them into practice when it counts most?
Maybe you, too, have found yourself at a crossroads, unsure of what to do now. When you don’t know what to do, do what you know. Practice what you have been trained to do…
Pick up a spoon... Feast directly from His Word regularly... as regularly as you would feed your body to keep it healthy.
Sit at His feet... Take time to fellowship with Him so that He can fill your longing for fellowship.
Look for His smile... Find your encouragement in the Lord.
Yell “up!” until you cross the finish line... When things get tough, focus on the call and the prize.