Editor’s Note: We asked a Providence family serving overseas to share some of the common challenges in missions and ways their family has seen God’s faithfulness. To hear more from this family, join us for Stories from the Nations on Sunday, March 26 at 6:00 pm.
I remember walking off the plane for the first time and being hit with all of the sounds, sights, and smells of our new host country. My wife and I were immediately confronted with new and sometimes baffling experiences, from the blistering heat at 9am to the two beggar ladies pinching my cheek at an intersection. Neither of us had any idea what the next twenty years would hold, but we were game for whatever God had for us.
The biggest lesson we have learned over the past twenty years is that we must walk by faith even when the circumstances that surround us seem daunting. Peter was able to do the impossible and walk on water while his eyes were on Jesus, but as soon as he began to look at the waves around him, he began to drown and had to call out to Jesus. Sometimes I am able to keep my eyes focused on Jesus and to trust Him and rest in His sovereignty. There are other times when my focus drifts to my circumstances, and I quickly become overwhelmed.
Keeping our eyes focused on Jesus is most crucial in three particular areas of service: ministry, team, and family.
Before launching overseas, my wife and I were both involved in a college ministry that helped disciple and train us to share our faith. Once overseas, though, we realized that our learning had just begun; there were new challenges as we sought to share the gospel in an understandable way with people whose worldview was completely different than ours. Many of the folks we share with speak English, but we’ve learned the importance of being able to speak the local language (sometimes referred to as “heart language”). While the people we share with may use English for work or school, the language they use to talk with their family or to discuss deep heart issues is their mother tongue.
It has been a grind for us to learn a new language, but so incredibly rewarding to see how deeply touched people are when they hear us trying to speak their language. Although we seek to be as clear as possible in sharing the gospel, we are reminded that the work of salvation is ultimately the Lord’s. We must rest in His ability to open people’s eyes to the truth of the gospel rather than rely on our own strength.
Serving as part of a team has been an incredible source of encouragement and fellowship for us. Working together on a shared vision that is near and dear to our hearts makes our teammates feel more like family. Over our years on the field we’ve seen many teammates come and go. The closeness of our relationships makes it even harder when we see teammates transition away from the field. Even though it can be difficult to see close friends leave it’s a good reminder to keep our eyes on Jesus.
When our kids were young we could just cart them around; they lived where we went with few questions. Now they still have to go where we go, but they’re old enough to ask some tough questions about why we live and work overseas. It has been a unique challenge to communicate to our kids why we have chosen to leave what is familiar and live so far from their grandparents and friends. At the same time it’s an incredible opportunity for our family to focus on Jesus as worthy of any sacrifice we might make.
We’ve had many incredible experiences and learned many lessons throughout our time working cross-culturally, far too many to list here. The overarching lesson that we can see God bringing us back to in every challenge we’ve faced and even the triumphs we’ve witnessed is our need for complete and utter dependence on the Lord. Like Peter, we want to have the boldness to keep stepping out of the boat into uncharted territory, but we see that just like him, we must keep our eyes on Jesus.