It was exactly two months ago that I left Loja. I shed some tears on the plane to Guayaquil, just thinking about how two years in a place is an awful long time, a lot of love given and received. And now that I’m home, I can say I miss some things, my closer friends, things we used to do, the smell of the place … but it hasn’t – doesn’t – hurt. It was the right time to be there, and the right time to finish and leave when I did.
It has been a huge blessing speaking to different groups at church and sharing about my experiences. It’s helped me process the experience. Showing other people what I lived means I don’t feel like I spent those years alone – which is what I felt coming back from exchange in Madrid, and the first few months back here were awful. I hope it’s been a blessing and an encouragement to those who have listened to me, too.
I’m still praying about which ministries to get involved in here. This almost certainty that I won’t be in Canberra long has been lingering in my mind, but I don’t want it to become an obstacle; I don’t want to hold back because of this idea that God might send me away again. Whether I’m here another three months, another year, or another few years, I still want to give my all to whatever I do.
To finish this post, I thought I’d share some of the lessons God taught me through my experience on the mission field in Ecuador, for those of you who haven’t heard me present 🙂
Seven lessons from the mission field
1. Relationships are key to any ministry, not just missions. Fun activities, solid Bible teaching, or whatever else, doesn’t mean anything if we don’t invest our lives in other people’s lives.
2. God can and will use us in unexpected ways. He will show us gifts we didn’t know we had, and use us in ways that have nothing to do with us being talented – our obedience in being at the right place at the right time is all it takes.
3. Grace isn’t just something we receive from God. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ – and grace is something we should show to others.
4. Wherever we serve, we are neither the beginners not the finishers of the work – but we are an integral part of the work of the Kingdom, regardless of whether we see the fruit. In fact, like the patriarchs in Hebrews 11, we probably won’t. That said, knowing that our work isn’t in vain, that we are sowing into the Kingdom, doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck to not see the fruit. It’s still discouraging because we always slip back into seeing things from a human perspective, rather than a godly one.
5. We don’t need to be Bible experts with a theology degree (or two) to be ready to serve in the mission field. We probably understand the Word better than we think, and better than the people we go to serve; and regardless of whether that’s the case, teaching other people is a great way to reinforce your knowledge and consolidate your faith in God’s Word.
6. A lot of what we believe to be biblical is actually just cultural. We hold a lot of beliefs about morals, behaviour, lifestyle, how church should be run, that we are convinced is what the Bible says is Truth, and other ways of thinking or doing things are wrong. Sometimes we just like to find justification for our opinions in the Bible. Sometimes we interpret the Bible a certain way, and forget we use a cultural lens, as well as the Holy Spirit, in reading it. Both of these things are dangerous if we aren’t open to the possibility that we might be wrong (or at least that other people might also be “right” in their own way).
7. We don’t need to be perfect people to become missionaries; because then no one would ever go. And the reverse is also true – becoming a missionary does not make anyone a perfect person. Missionaries are definitely not perfect (so we shouldn’t expect our Kingdom colleagues to be, either). Locals on the field usually (unfairly) expect us to be perfect, or better, or more knowledgeable – and rather than trying to live up to their expectations, glossing over or hiding our weaknesses and mistakes, I’d say it’s more beneficial to be real with them. We should show everyone that we are indeed human, but that God is working in us to change us into truly Christlike people.