Friday, November 6, 2015

Veteran Missionary Women Open Their Hearts

Photo courtesy of stockimages, Free Digital Photos
I asked sixteen missionary women from all over the world (each serving at least twenty years) to answer a few questions. I’ll let them speak for themselves. You’ll be challenged and blessed. (The last three answers are in random order.)

Q. How many years have you been a missionary?
A. 20, 20, 22, 23, 24, 27, 30, 30, 31, 33, 34, 35, 35, 36, 45, 55

Q. What is your field of service? (Some have served in more than one.)
A. Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Spain, Uganda, Ukraine, Venezuela, and one other.

Q. What is the greatest spiritual lesson you’ve learned personally through being a missionary?
A.      “God knows where I am and what I am going through. So many times, when we confronted the impossible, I would be so worried about the outcome. Then, God would shine, showing His perfect will. He knows!”
            God's ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. We can plan and pray and work and anticipate a specific response, but every part of what goes on in ministry (and our personal lives) remains in His hand and will be done according to His time table, not mine. I am learning (always still learning!) through success and failure, sickness and good health, joys and disappointments, that after making my plans to ask God, 'What is Your will for me today?’ Sometimes that involves accomplishing nothing on my to do list but surrendering my plans to Him, when God directs my circumstances to minister to others, spend more time with Him, take care of something totally unexpected, having my plans set aside with no explanation of why, or suffering illness, so I am in a place where I can only 'be still and know that He is God.'”
            “We are to be faithful to God, serving with joy in our hearts, love for our Lord and for the lost and leaving the outcome to Him. We are servants of Christ. He will build His church. It is not in our might or work, but God gives the increase.”  
            My husband's spirituality and walk with the Lord would not carry me through. I needed my own, very close relationship with the Lord.”
            I think total dependence for God's provision in every area. If you need cash in America, you pick up a second job or hold a garage sale. On the field, you are 100% dependent on God (really, that's true everywhere, all the time, but it's more immediate and obvious on the mission field). In America, we have our churches and Christian communities, but on the field, we are sometimes all alone without anyone to give us spiritual support. When you've seen God provide over and over in unthinkable ways, you really begin to count on it.“
            “It is God that I serve and not people, so I have to be faithful to what He wants—not to what others think I should be doing or how I should be doing it.”
            "The greatest spiritual lesson I have learned and continue to learn is the power and necessity of prayer."
            Many times, we judge things solely by what we see, or think we see. We allow our ideas to be formed (not intentionally) by how we perceive things should be. Maybe, it’s because we have always done things this way (in the United States), so we think it is the right way to do it, and all other ways are not right. We sometimes don't let ourselves stop and think that, just because it is done differently, it doesn't make it wrong. For example, church should be Sunday morning, Sunday night, and usually Wednesday night. These times don't work as well in other places. Our ideas on how people should behave, dress, meet, etc. are set in our minds, and it is difficult for some to step back from that idea and look to see it is okay to not think the typical "American" way.
            I don't have to worry about having enough money to do what I need to do because God will miraculously provide everything we need in His own special way and time.”
            “People are different, cultures are different, but the Word of God transcends all these differences. Aside from the necessary language translations, we don't need an ‘culture’ Bible, we only need the Word of God. It is The Book for all mankind regardless of culture, creed, or people groups, it transcends the ages and addresses the basic needs of every person...the need for a Savior.”
            “Faith that God will A. supply B. strengthen C. sustain”
            To trust God in every area of my life: His will for a husband; learning to love the people where God called us to serve; financial needs; and protection for my children, and His will for their lives . . . just trusting God.”
            Know for sure that God has brought you to your field of service, because there will come times when you doubt that you even want to stay. Hurts and heartbreak from the people you serve often are the reasons missionaries leave the field. God has brought you there to serve, not to be served or receive compliments on the great job you are doing. Remember that Jesus had twelve close friends, and one was a traitor.
            “Missions is a life commitment. You have to be willing to stay put and invest your life. For me, the principle of not looking back after having put my hand to the plow helped me stick in here for so many years. (Luke 9:62)”

Q. What word of advice would you give to any new missionary on your field?
A.        “Learn the language well. We live in a country where there are two prominent languages. We learned one (foreign language) well, but after studying the second language many times, we did not get it well enough to truly minister in that language.”
            “Always go back to the day God burdened your heart for souls. It is so simple, but remember Whom you serve and why you serve Him. If you are married, remember your husband has a calling, and you must help him fulfill that calling. Also, have fun! It’s an amazing life!”
            "Be teachable and flexible, which translates to: be humble."
            “Enjoy the good things about your field and its people. Look for the positives, and understand the negatives. Learn all you can about the culture and how people think. This background will help you witness to the people you meet. Stay completely out of their politics.”
            Make God your only needful ‘thing.’ Friends will forget you. Family will be far away. Nationals will disappoint you. Your husband will be under large burdens. Without God, I would never be able to sustain these things.”
            “A smile, visible joy and peace, and a gentle spirit breaks through almost any cultural barrier, and destroys most preconceived conceptions of foreigners.”
            Love the people and as much of the culture as you can as a Christian, and serve them with humility, remembering that I am a sinner, saved only by the grace of God.”
            Be flexible and teachable.”
            I praise the Lord for godly parents who, when they became missionaries, they just loved the people they were ministering to and never lifted themselves above the ones they were ministering to. It made a real impact on my life and the lives of my sisters. I would encourage new missionaries to arrive on the field and get to know all about the country where they are working, to learn their culture, celebrate their holidays (unless they are ungodly customs), love their food, learn their language, have the people in your home. You don’t have to sever all ties with your home country, but make this new country your home. Love the people and desire to please God in this new country. Don’t arrive on the field, counting how many months or years until you can go back home. Relax, enjoy this country, the people and show your children how awesome it is to live there, even when there are difficulties and maybe the country is primitive. I remember when the electricity would go out, my mom would say, ‘Let’s get books out and read.’ So the five of us would get a book. We would light a few candles, and we would read. Don’t think about what you had to give up to become a missionary. Praise the Lord for the privilege of being able to serve Him. Determine to remain a missionary the rest of your life, even if God changes where you should be later on down the road. Be joyful.”
            Make sure of your calling, and then just stay! Don’t leave. It gets better.”
            “Always stop before making decisions and look to see how it will affect others. Many times when I get discouraged and ready to throw in the towel, I stop and consider all the people here who would not be Christians or in church if we had never come to the field—and what the impact would be on them if we left. It’s really amazing how far that net goes when you stop long enough to think about it. I would never want to be responsible for halting what God is doing here.”
“Be sure it is God who put you where you are. Learning the language is your first priority.”
            Don't dwell on family and friends in your home country. Keep your eyes on the Lord and put your heart into the new ministry that God has given you.  Allow the nationals to become new aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, grandparents etc.  It doesn't mean you forget about the real ones, but it means you grow to love and appreciate the people on your field of service.  If you love your field, your children will love it, too.”
            (Missionary to itinerant workforce) “Persevere. This isn’t a drive-through ministry. It takes patience and being willing to give your all to a person, even when you know their job will take them somewhere else in two to six years.”
            “Have a teachable spirit; learn from others. Listen with your heart. Learn the value of keeping a Bible and prayer journal. Disciple your children, don't expect them to "glean" from what they see you do, teach them like you would a new convert.”
            Learn patience. Learn to keep going even when there are no positive results to buoy you up or report back home. We're working for eternal results, and we need to have that big picture and that long game in mind. If God called you to a field, it's because he wants you there. He knows why, and he knows when the harvest will come, even if you never get to see more than a distant glimpse of it. Every tiny spiritual victory counts.”

Q. Could you share a verse that has “carried you through”?
A. No two missionary women shared the same verses. Be encouraged in the Word!
  • Philippians 4:11, Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. It’s a reminder of how good God is to me.
  • Proverbs 3:5-6, my life verses: Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
  • Isaiah 41:10, Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
  • 2 Timothy 1: 7, For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
  • Psalm 37:3-5, Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
  • Philippians 4:8, Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
  • Romans 8:32, He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? And, from the same missionary, Colossians 3:1-3, If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
  • Proverbs 16:1, The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:24, life verse, Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. “Whatever He asks me to do, He will empower me to do it.”
  • Romans 12:1-2, life verses, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. “Don't transform to the world!”
  • Joshua 1:9, Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
  • Philippians 4:4-7, Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 
  • Psalm 68:11-13, The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it. Kings of armies did flee apace: and she that tarried at home divided the spoil. Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold. This lady said this was her “hug” from God when she was discouraged.
  • Nahum 1:7, The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.
  • Psalm 46:10, Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. “Get out of God’s way.”


Tori Leslie said...

Great post Lou Ann! I love getting to glean from ladies who have stood by their husbands and been faithful to the all. Thank you for the time it took to put this together. Lovely read.

Ellen said...

Love this! Thanks for sharing. I love hearing about missionaries. My sister is a veteran missionary - served in Papua New Guinea, is now in her 70's and they are on their way home.

Jessi said...

This post was such a blessing and encouragement to me. I am a young missionary wife in Kenya on our first term, and I loved gleaning from the wisdom that these missionary ladies have. Thank you for posting.