VALLEY EXPERIENCES AS A MISSIONARY

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)

 

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Hobbies

How hobbies shaped me and helped reach students

Hobbies are a wonderful way to take a break from the usual grind of life. Wikipedia states that a hobby is a regular activity done for enjoyment typically during ones leisure time. Phyllis McGinley once said, “ A hobby a day , keeps the doldrums away”. True to the word, hobbies rejuvenate us, make life interesting and deflect us from the mundane.

It takes discipline to push pause when so many things around us ( career, ministry, tasks, household work) scream for attention. God demonstrated the importance of rest( Gen:2:3) and commands us to take care of our bodies ( 1 Cor:6:19,20) which includes our physical, mental and spiritual well being. Hobbies are just one of the many ways we can do this, while connecting to Him and also develop a deeper relationship with Him as we pursue them.

My hobbies have ranged from interior designing, hairdo, vegetable carving, playing the guitar, singing, craftwork to cooking, reading, writing, quilling, blogging, silk thread jewelry making, calligraphy, ceramic carving, etc. Funny it seems as my hobbies are many and have kept changing from time to time.

Lately, I’ve been quilling for about a year or so. I initially tried my hand at it with disinterest but my creative skills from the Lord wouldn’t let me stop. Quilling wallposters, cards, bands, earrings, etc attracted a lot of students to our home where I taught them how to quill. It became a pattern for girl students to visit our home, chit chat and quill alongside me. This gave me room to share the gospel and win them for the Lord over a period of time.

My hobby of quilling different designer jewelry paved way for me to easily enter girls hostels and start GIG’s ( groups investigating God). Since girls are primarily attracted to jewelry, students easily gathered in huge numbers, bought a few and also joined the Bible study thereafter. Quilling also helped me sell my work ( online and offline) ,make an income and educate believing students hailing from a poor background. Quilling and developing a hobby together with students makes it more fun and makes us relate to them easily. It has also helped me drive my point into them through informal talks rather than formal ones.

Cooking and baking on the other hand have also served as excellent tools to relate with girls and boys alike in the ministry. Just being with them, adding the different spices into curries, letting them try their hand at my hobbies have helped. Mentoring has always happened during these times where I’ve let them learn my hobbies and vice versa.

With regard to hobbies, I have always asked myself whether it hinders or promotes my pursuit of Jesus Christ. God is certainly pleased when we pursue hobbies provided we don’t make idols of them.

Hobbies add spice to life and having varying kinds of hobbies develop you as an individual and also as a believer

  1. Hobbies make you an interesting person, adds hand on experience and helps you share it with others.
  2. It helps relieve stress and calms your mind
  3. Certain hobbies increase your patience ( painting, sculpturing) as you develop skills while others keep your body fit ( outdoor games)
  4. Hobbies make you confident and increases your self esteem, improves mental alertness
  5. Hobbies also make you socialize , both online and offline
  6. Hobbies improve creativity and helps in idea generation
  7. Hobbies enable you to give back and bless others through you
  8. It helps discover you inner talents
  9. You can also make decent incomes our of few hobbies

It is important to practice self control in our pursuit of hobbies as there are stray chances of hobbies turning into an obsession. The thumb rule of 1 Cor : 10:31  and Colossians: 3:17 of , “whatever you do, do it for the glory of God”, ought to be followed. Our hobbies should not be an escape from living under the Lordship of Christ. Kuyper once said, “ There is not one inch in all of our human existence over which God does not cry, ‘MINE’”.  As for me hobbies have moulded my character and have served to be a blessing to others too. So friends, take time and enjoy your hobbies , they are well worth it.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Sarah Susannah

Sarah blogs at https://cyberchefsarah.wordpress.com

FB Page on her hobbies( Quilling for sale)-  https://www.facebook.com/Susiesboutique/

 

 

 

 

Contentment Vs covetousness

“You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need”

Vernon Howard

Contentment is a virtue that challenges our do- more, earn – more, be- more society. Contentment is defined as the ease of mind in current circumstances and covetousness is the excessive quest for power, position and possessions. They are antonyms and we find a very few who studiously avoid covetousness and are content with what they have.  Living in expansive houses, driving the best of cars, rolling in crores of money, having a flairy, flabby lifestyle doesn’t stop man from desiring for more. There exists a never ending thirst in man to procure more and drown in the luxuries of life.  The more- man covets for the things of the world, a deep sense of dissatisfaction rests in him making his heart a vacuum that never is ever filled. Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes speaks in detail of coveting and running after a pleasure filled life- which he concludes as , “running and chasing after the wind”. 

An airline pilot was flying over Tennesse mountains and pointed out a lake to his co- pilot, “see that little lake?” he said “ when I was a kid , I used to sit in a rowboat down there fishing. Everytime a plane would fly overhead, I’d look up and wish I was flying it; now I look down and wish I was in the rowboat fishing”. Contentment is often an elusive pursuit.  We often aren’t content to live within means. There is a lingering jealousy within us when our counterparts fair a little better than us, live in better homes than us or even earn better than us. Discontentment settles like tea dust in a tea- kettle and slowly spreads its flavor into the very fabric of life causing disharmony within us and in relationships around us.

Paul states in 1 Tim: 6:6 that godliness with contentment is great gain. Paul is writing this letter to his mentee and spiritual son Timothy, warning him to be aware of elusive false teachings that were arising in the church. He describes corrupt false teachers who divert people from their simple faith by arguing over trivial words and lure them into pursuing money and prosperity.  This same teaching has seeped into Christendom today where Christian figureheads amass wealth and lure many crowds to themselves by preaching the prosperity gospel, health wealth gospel and the word of faith gospel. This is the very mindset that Paul preached against and exhorted Timothy  to stand against. ( I Tim 6:9,10). Believing Christians today aren’t content with what they have and are carried away by these false teachings where Satan subtly makes believers covet over material riches. Wherein Christ’ followers ought to pursue after holiness, godliness, righteousness and gentleness ( 1 Tim: 6:11).  It is absolutely no sin to pray for our material needs (without greed). 

Paul exhorts the church to stay away from the love of money which is the root of all evil. Earning money and having savings is essential but the love of money can make us covet. Being rich isn’t sin as we come across numerous examples in the Bible of rich men who were godly ( Col:1:27) who chose to be content, revered and served the Lord( Abraham and Job).  Their material riches didn’t make them covet for more but they understood that   being rich  in the Lord  was far greater than their own material wealth .For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Mat : 6:21. These godly men knew that their wealth belonged to the Maker of heaven and earth, so Job’s attitude in riches and poverty was,       “ The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away, blessed be the Name of the Lord” Job:1:20. What great contentment!!!

“Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” Luke : 12:14. Excessive desire for material gain is a mark of cold hearted worldliness. Covetousness, according to Col: 3:5,6 is idolatry cause it takes the place of the Lord in our hearts and lives.  Achan( Joshua 7) and Gehazi ( 2Kings :5:20-27)coveted and not only lost the blessing of the Lord but were punished for their covetous desires. Achan and his entire family were stoned to death, the stolen silver, gold, mantle, oxen, donkeys and tents were burned down to ashes as  a punishment for coveting over material riches. ( Josh: 7:24,25).  Gehazi who was a man of God and the servant of Elisha went after Naaman and asked for silver and clothing which Elisha had politely refused afore. The Lord punished him with leprosy. “Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever. He left his presence leprous, as white as snow” ( 2 Kings:5:27). 

On the contrary, we have the example of Paul where he says in his letter to the Philippians, “ For I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and in all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well –fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil: 4:11-13. Paul had faced adverse situations in life from being in a palace to being in prison, from being treated royally to being beaten brutally, from staying in luxury to being under house arrest, from having plenty to having nothing.  Through it all, Paul modeled contentment and accepted circumstances with the strength that came from the Lord.  He knew how to abound and how to suffer need. What an example to follow!! The writer to the Hebrews says,“ let your conduct be without covetousness, be content with such things as you have” Heb: 13:5.

Contentment also doesn’t mean complacency; for the Bible extols hard work and rewards a hardworking man as long as there isn’t any greed in him. The secret of contentment lies in an undivided trust in the Lord( Is: 26:3) ,  waiting patiently for his time of provision (Ps:37:7) ,  trusting His promises and depending on His word ( Is:58:11)  and  being on guard against  all kinds of greed  ( Luke :12:15) and having a living personal relationship with Him on a daily basis.

In the words of John Bulguy, “ Contentment is  a pearl of great price and whoever procures it at the expense of ten thousand desires makes a wise and a happy purchase” 

One commentator says, “Godliness is not about acquiring better and more material things; it is instead  an active life of faith, a living out of covenant faithfulness in relation to God, finding sufficiency and contentment in Christ alone”. Let us war against any ungodly, fleshly nature that rears its ugly head in the form of covetousness and strive to pursue godliness with contentment.

Sarah Susannah Anji

Being a cyber ambassador

Media has become the omnipresent backdrop of life. We live in an age where mobiles, TV and the internet have merged into one and have brought the world to our fingertips. Be it sports scores, TV serials, shopping sprees, advertisements, research articles, journals and what not- they are all there -and just a click away.

Along with all the positive scope that the internet offers, there are a lot many dangers lurking in cyberspace that make us succumb to internet temptations. Gone are the days of outings, picnics, outdoor fun games, family talks, family get togethers, etc. These are days when all of our leisure time is being robbed by  internet surfing- which is the in thing today.

The ramification of clicking on various links may seem slight without knowing that web designers have spent years in finding out ways to keep you hooked to the net. A decade ago, the concept of , “ tempting the click” was articulated. It just means keeping the prospect coming back for more and keeping the viewer nailed to his computer for hours.  The visual stimulants have multiplied and the sexual content has burgeoned. Satan has spinned his most eloquent web through all of these.

What are your eyes drawn to? Why are you coaxed to visit certain websites that you never intended to visit? This is because of ,” tempting the click” – where web designers have succeeded in keeping us prey to the cyber world, making us click and click and click on a chain of links.

We are indeed in a cyber battle today over ethics and values. Our biblical values, character and ethical beliefs are at stake. We need to realize that the ease at which we click on a link determines our moral standard.  Drawing boundary lines are tough in cyberspace if lines are not drawn in our minds.

Mother Teresa said, “ I do not pray for success but I pray for faithfulness”.  We need to bolster the likelihood of doing the ‘right things’ and stop doing the ‘wrong things’ by being faithful in clicking at the needed links alone. Luke :16:10 speaks of being faithful in little things.

E- lies and e – messages are other traps that lure people into cyberspace. E -lies are so quotidian in the social media where you can pretend to be anyone and e – message almost anything. We wallow in the unethical and immoral conduct over social media that subtly eat our time. Most advertisement are e – lies and we fall prey to them , watch them, relish and revel in them. There are numerous questionable credentials online and we need to use the filter of God’s word to identify the good from the bad and view only needed sites.

Watching pornography violates trust, leads to lust, compulsive disorders, addictions, adultery, divorce and tarnishes ones reputation once caught. Visual ethics are neither taught in schools by teachers, at home by parents or in church by pastors. Our children need to be taught to use proper filters and keep a guard over their eyes( Ps:119:37). I remember the Sunday school song sung so frequently during my younger years, “ Be careful little eyes what you see, there is a Savior up above, He is looking down in love, so be careful little eyes what you see.”

A lifestyle of careless viewing reveals the ignorance of the power of temptation. Christians are never immune to these temptations.  The real monster isn’t in the internet or the smart phone or on TV. He isn’t lurking behind the web. He is much closer. Our battle is with the flesh. Gal:5:17 says,” For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with one another so that you are not to do whatever you want.” Recognize the enemy( Satan, Flesh) and wage war against him through the power of His word.

Steps to be a cyber ambassador in the cyber world

  1. Match your online life with your offline beliefs
  2. Examine your life to see if your are involved in any form of cyber sin
  3. Use trusted web training
  4. OnGuardOnline.gov
  5. staysafeonline.org
  6. safefamilies.org
  7. Use filters like Mc Cafee, Symantec- high security packages
  8. Have accountability partners- ( multiple users in one account ).
  9. Take resolutions on online time management
  10. Delete in- browser apps that allow backdoor access to un accountable internet use
  11. Delete pictures and videos that are inappropriate
  12. Cultivate digital hygiene( specific time to view internet)
  13. Flee from temptation(2 tim:2:2)
  14. Read and practice God’s word( 2 Tim:3:16,17)
  15. Confess and bounce back on walking with GOD( Ps: 51:1,2,5,7,9,10.), 1Jn:1:9
  16. Pray with a partner(James:5:16)
  17. Make a covenant with your eyes ( Job:31:1)
  18. Keep your mind occupied , think about pleasant things ( Phil:4:8)

How true it is that , “ the mighty doors of change swing on the tiny hinges of discipline”- Ken Windee

As believers, we need to be actively engaged in cyberspace and not retreat from it. We need more cyber ambassadors for the Lord who would stand for cyber ethics in a decaying cyber world of ours.

Bibliography

Dan Andrew, “Taming the Media Monster”, Cincinette, St Anthony messenger press: 2003.

Daniel Lorrnmann, “ Virtual Integrity”, Authentic Media, Secunderabad, AP 2008

www. desiringgod.org/articles

 

 

Sarah Susannah

Rugged journey of a woman in ministry

Being a woman in the ministry is as challenging as doing a rope walk between two sky scrapers. The past seven months have been a bumpy but an amazing ride for me.  I agree with women that it is exhausting, wearisome- but I have come to realize the fact that God wants more women to be out there making themselves available despite the various struggles that they face everyday.

It hasn’t been easy for me being on the road for about 180 days in 210 days. The travel sometimes drained every ounce of energy that I ever had. Balancing my family, endless guests and the ministry has taken a toll on my health leading to health complications. Nevertheless, the Lord has never failed in fulfilling the promises that he had given to me years ago, “ Go in  the strength you have and save Israel…… am I not sending you?”- Judges:6:14

I have kept claiming, “ I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Phil:4:13 . The reality of the power in the word of God astounded me when the Lord saw me through tough times. There were times when I thought that I would retreat from the battlefront when it got way too exhausting, but the amount of grace that the Lord pours during times of trials is extra ordinary and the love for Him fuels me to serve him more.

I have juggled at marriage, cooking, housekeeping, counseling, mentoring , handling Bible studies, travelling 300 kms/ week, sustaining my favourite hobbies, writing blogs, etc. I have understood that  I cannot be all things to all people at the same time. Having a plethora of responsibilities to shoulder , I have learnt to delegate non- core tasks to others.

I believe that the greatest contributor to the issue of being a capable woman in the ministry is the primary call for His service, the love for the Lord and the rippling effect of His love towards those who don’t know Him.  Having disc prolapse, sciatica, psoriatic arthritis, hypothyroidism and acute asthma has never held me down from what He has called me to do. That unwavering confidence and the acceleration to do the Lords work, comes not from my own physical ability or talents but rather, from the work of the cross of Christ and His personal work in me.

Although I exude a strong persona,  ultimately I want to unwind at times , rest and have times of relaxation. My hubby who understands my tendency to collapse under pressure has been my very best friend, counselor and guide. He gives me short breaks, takes me for an outing or two and having a jolly good time with him really helps me overcome my exhaustion.

I agree to have faced a pretty many speed bumps along the way in the ministry- many have pulled at the strings of my heart . They range from accusations, jealousy, heart aches, stubborn attitudes, little fruit , etc.  Through it all, the master Sculpter lost no time in chiseling me to be more like Him. I have been constantly surrendering my brokenness to the Lord and HE has helped me have a smooth walk through chaos , sickness, and ministerial difficulties.  I am not a perfect women in the ministry- I am far from it rather, but I am confident that the One who walks me through these times will  make sure to see me through and lead many others to Him.

Sarah Susannah