Saturday, December 30, 2000

VOLUME 8 - 2000

Missionary Why Are You Here?

In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. I tell you,

now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:1-2

The adventurous spirit in me awoke as I read Bosnia on the upcoming Wheels for the World campaign schedule, “Now that would be a place to go”. Little did I know at the time the impact the trip would have on me. When I made contact with the European office coordinating the trip, they welcomed the prospect of another set of hands, especially ones that could bring “smiles” into the war-torn country.

An international team composed of members from Finland, Holland, Belgium, and America, partnered with the Finnish Free Foreign Mission in Tuzla, Bosnia. This dedicated group works closely with the ministry of Joni Erickson Tada, translating her books into the native language, as well as promoting the ministry through the nationally televised airing of Joni’s life story.

I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage— with great patience and careful instruction. 2 Tim 4:1-2

In our initial meetings we learned the daunting figures facing the missionaries there. Out of a population of roughly 3.5 million, it is estimated that there are fewer than 500 evangelical Christians (including missionaries) in the whole country. Hearing that number, we knew the week ahead held great challenges.

I tell you the truth; you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. John 16:20

I thought it would be easy, “just another gig,” however clearly the Lord had some pruning in mind to this part of my garden.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:2

Outside the rain and sleet came down. The location for distributing the majority of the over 200 wheelchairs was located in a school for disabled children which CARE EE quickly decorated with balloon hearts and flowers creating a colorful array across the dirty window-panes. Hopefully the decorations would hold cheerful warmth inside to fight the cold wet winter days.

I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 1:13-14

Daily as the disabled arrived, the struggle to lift spirits and make smiles became more of a challenge. Little did I realize certain aspects of my repertoire just did not translate! Muslims are offended at the likeness of any religious personage. Therefore, my King of Hearts Cards with the big picture of Jesus raised more than a few eyebrows. And when I pulled out the plastic pig noses for the story of the Three Little Pigs, I thought the translator’s eyes were going to pop out. Quickly she said “No, no, you cannot use the pig, this is offensive.” I improvised, but it wore on my confidence. I felt like I was “in over my head.” As conversations with the locals wound up confrontational, I really began to have my doubts.

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5

The individuals we ministered to, the stories of war, the shelled city of Sarajevo, the weather, all combined to send me back to the States emotion-ally broken. There were more questions than I had answers for, more images that didn’t smile back and no place for me to “file away” the feelings. I was ready to resume a secular lifestyle and leave the foreign mission field to others.

And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10

Back home nights were filled with silence. What called me into the mission field?

How can I be sure I’m still following the leading of the Lord and not the leading of the next adventure? The other American on the trip offered the single most critical piece of advice I’ve ever received, “Read the book The Peace Child, by Don Richardson.” Within its pages is the story of one of the first missionaries to the cannibal tribes of New Guinea. As he was taking his wife and eighteen month old child back into the swamplands of the vicious and violent tribes, he got out of the boat, surrounded by war-painted natives, chanting and wielding their spears. Fear naturally set in. What danger faced his helpless family? At that moment, he felt the presence of the Lord asking him “Missionary, why are you here?”

His answer changed my perspective forever: “I have come to tell these people of Your great love for them, and I am prepared to die, to give all that I have to do that.”

And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen. Ezekiel 2:6-7

While bodily harm was not an issue for me in Bosnia, reading that statement reaffirmed the “why” I go and do, and get ready to go again and again. To have the conviction of the call, and to know life itself has no meaning outside of the upward high calling of Christ, is not only everything it is all that I need.

But if I say, "I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name," His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. Jeremiah 20:9