So you have a mission, do you? Destination chosen? Check. Fundraising goal met (enough)? Check. Bags packed? Check. Initial itinerary ready? Check. Faith activated? Eh…still working on that one…
The Scriptures say, “For without faith, it is impossible to please God.” And what is faith but the evidence of what we cannot see and the reality of what we are hoping for? This isn’t a matter of hoping that things will work out, but actually that God is in control and He is the one guiding us, equipping us, and carrying us to do the mission we have been called to do. There are different periods of time when our faith is checked to see if we are still fully relying on God and not in our own plans or in the circumstances around us. Here are a few:
Faith When You Go
Any time one prepares to leave for the mission field, there are a number of questions that we that require faith in the Father to answer them. Am I going because He’s calling me or for my own reasons alone? Am I going to make a difference when I get there? Will there be a community that will accept me and help me to grow and serve well? How long will I be there? Regardless of whether we have the answers yet or not, our faith in God is what gives us the true strength we need to have our best start. We probably already have enough faith stories in the preparation to remind us that God is orchestrating it all, and is probably in the face of some kind of push back. I believe these are reminders to us that God can see ahead and is making the way straight, so our faith in Him is right where it needs to be as we head to our mission field.
Faith in the Slow
Sometimes as things get adjusted and somewhat grounded some time after we arrive, there can be a season of slow-moving, which may leave us questioning what we’re doing wrong. Things take time to be established (relationships with natives, relationships with our team or networking partners, strategic planning, a need for financial resources, etc.) and there will always be times that feel at a standstill. I believe these times can be good for us to take inventory of everything that matters most. Is the mission still maintaining its integrity? Are the field workers keeping a team mentality? Use the time to do a survey of your mental, physical, and spiritual health and keep in mind that God is still working and moving beyond what we can see or sense. And sometimes, the slow road is the only way to get to where we are going.
Faith in the Low
Because missions work happens in reality and the reality of life is that it can carry a load of frustration, pain, or even loss, it’s important for us to keep our faith firmly rooted in God, who does not waver. It can feel lonely and often leaves us feeling like nobody can understand what we are going through. Sometimes, we are even led to feel we are beyond our breaking point. In some cases, that may actually be true and having faith in God that He is still present and cares for your healthy state is essential. Getting the necessary help we need to find safe space to recover and heal (or possibly transition somewhere else) is not a failure in God’s eyes. Give yourself grace either way and remember that He is much bigger than any circumstance and mission, and that we can have faith in Him to show us which way to go next, even if it is just one step at a time.
Faith When You Sow
When we have invested so much of our lives to a people and a place, there is a sense of belonging that we have because we are so connected. It has become a part of who we are and it’s a beautiful thing. However, whenever God is showing us the way to go elsewhere and for whatever reason, it’s important to remember these things found in His word. Some plant, some water, but God brings the INCREASE. Missions work has happened long before us and will continue well after us. It will thrive because of God’s work through us, but also because there is an unstoppable force to the gospel, so we can have faith that whatever is sown by us, that it will be reaped as part of God’s plan to grow His Kingdom, regardless if we ever see the fruit or not.
So whether, you are about to go, you are in a slow-time, you are feeling low, or transitioning elsewhere, our faith that God is faithful is paramount to our steady pace in the mission field. And no, it’s not easy, so don’t feel like you are missing something if you find yourself struggling. But more importantly, don’t feel like God has given up on you in the midst of the struggle either, because we need to have faith in the flow of all stages of life and ministry, because this is the reality of life. And please remember in the process, “He who has started a good work in you will bring it unto completion…