I first arrived on the mission field as a 29 year old , newly married women with a few years of experience with a student mission. Boarding a train from my hometown and saying goodbye to the people who had known and loved me all along was the most difficult thing for me to do. I had always prayed about working as a cross cultural missionary along with a mission minded partner but praying was one thing an facing reality was another altogether
To then arrive on the other side of India, seemed to be a new planet altogether. To live and minister in a place full of people you’ve never seen before and hearing a language you’ve never heard before , adapting yourself to the food and the cultural practices was a strange and a vulnerable feeling indeed. Reading missionary biographies during those times was a great source of encouragement for me. With no one to speak to and no fellowship to go to, I went through isolation, culture shock experiences that made me silently struggle within. It was only the strength of the Lord that helped me stride ahead with my partner always walking hand in hand with me through all that I had to undergo.
Five years from then, that initial feeling of insecurity has flown away, I can’t stay away from the local students or the local culture, ministry picked up tremendously we literally saw many students come to know the Lord personally as their Savior and grow in Him. There were those mountain top experiences in the field and also those deep valley experiences. Along with joyous times came those times of distress, feelings of being let down and constant struggles throttled me down. Our home slowly became the hotspot for friends to enjoy a meal, a drop in place for students at any time of the day, a holiday home for well meaning friends visiting over, a counseling centre for broken families, homes and lives. Household work sometimes quadrupled overnight with hardly time to sit and listen to soothing music.
The sense of failure sometimes crashed into my thoughts at times when after years of work over a small group, we failed to see little or no fruit , or a new believer whose growth in the Lord seemed steady, and within a month you see his spiritual decline and downfall. Another trying experience in the mission field is sicknesses of all kinds- ranging from communicable to non communicable ones. We have found it tough when we needed to travel many kilometers of distance in order to reach the nearest hospital and physicians would ultimately diagnose the disease wrongly
Being on the mission field is a humbling experience. I understood that I don’t have any super spiritual powers that render me immune to the things that wear away my,” buffer”. We all need the grace of God at those times when we would rather throw a malfunctioning laptop at the window, murmur when we need to travel long distances to the nearest hospital in an emergency situation , break into tears of frustration when there is no finance at home, or even running to your neighbors home to have a bath due to water shortage.
The most painful of all is the rejection from parents, relatives back at home when you cannot attend weddings or a family get together due to the distance, finance involved and the pioneering built up ministry that might break down in our absence. Facing anger, rejection, annoyance sometimes hatred from family is part of a missionary’s life. The feeling of loneliness grips you when you know that parents and siblings cannot make it to your place. The lack of fellowship from mature believers or prayer partners on the mission field has made me feel insecure, many a times . But, above all, knowing that you have chosen the best part of leaving your loved ones to serve the Lord in a remote location, with Christ strengthening you every moment, has always given me hope and encouragement.
Sometimes , I hate to fake enthusiasm when I feel physically exhausted, emotionally wounded and spiritually dry. I have wrestled and I still wrestle with family tensions back at home, unresolved tensions with team mates, difficulty to continue with deep differences and change in thought pattern of fellow workers, the guilt of living far from families, not being able to care for parents at their old age, the mounting ministry load, this deep feeling of inadequacy to minister to an elite, urban student crowd, discouragement with non – progressive growth in students. Through it ALL, God has been faithful in leading me through and showing rays of hope through other experiences.
Col : 3: 23,24 that says “ …… since you know that from the Lord you will receive your reward; you serve Christ” has always been of great encouragement to me. At time of spiritual exhaustion and requiring inspiration to do the Lords work , 2 Pet: 3: 18 came live to me.
On the other hand, the Lord chose to use struggles to shape me , mould me , break me and relate with people who go through similar struggles. It has been a bumpy road, with lots of speed breakers, traffic signals, minor dents on the vehicle, but it is all worth it for I know that He is still working in me to make me a better vessel of clay. A missionary once said from whom I take encouragement , “ I had to learn that it is the Lord’s work and not mine. And it is ok if I feel adequate at it or if I struggle because I am inadequate. I will never be adequate to do what only God can do. There is a lot to do and endure to improve, but I don’t have to figure it all out myself. I can count on Him.”
YES , AND I KNOW THAT I CAN COUNT ON HIM( CHRIST)
That’s my favorite song…
We talk of faith way up on the mountain
Talk comes so easy when life’s at its best
Now down in the valleys, of trials and temptations
That’s where your faith, is really put to the test
For the God on the mountain is the God in the valley
When things go wrong, He’ll make them right
And the God of the good times
Is still God in the bad times
The God of the day, is still God in the night
The God of the day, is still God in the night
- Sarah( missionary with the student mission)