"You must be so excited about finally getting to go back to Ecuador. When do you leave?"
I have probably heard variations of these words a dozen times over the past few days. Those voicing these phrases are well-intentioned, so we respond kindly with the words everyone expects us to say,
"Oh yes, we're thrilled to be getting back home..."
The truth of how we really feel about going back would take a lot longer to explain. I'm afraid we would burst a lot of people's bubble about not being the super-saint missionaries we are expected to be.
Excited? Thrilled? Home?
After 20+ years living in Guayaquil I personally do not relate to those terms as being descriptive of our life overseas.
Don't get me wrong. We do know this is where God would have us. We are called and have not yet been released from this calling. If given a choice we probably would choose somewhere else to live. Guayaquil is not my idea of the "good life." It is hard to live there. It is even harder on one's family.
Sure, when people come down for a few days visit everything is wonderful, awesome, exciting, inspiring, beautiful, exotic, adventuresome, etc. But all that quickly fades. The honeymoon phase usually ends sometime around the end of the 2nd or 3rd week.
So, are we going back grudgingly with a bad attitude? No. We go back realistically knowing what it is we return to. Danger. Hot year around. Crowded. Loneliness. Insecurity. Discomfort. Poverty. Frustration. Sickness. Constant noise. Lack of privacy. Spiritual warfare. Misunderstandings. Inconveniences.
Some would say, "you're nuts for submitting yourselves to all that. Stay with us and do what you do over there, here in America." It sounds tempting. Even logical. After all, haven't we done more than our fair share for the Great Commission?
Check out Jesus' words in Matthew 16, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it..."
Life isn't about feeling good, living the "good life"--the American Dream--seeking our well-being, experiencing personal fulfillment, being satisfied.
It is about Him, his Kingdom. His will. His desires. His heart. His good pleasure. His glory. He is the Potter; we are the clay.
Does this sound strange?
Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself (what? deny myself? lay aside personal preferences?), take up his cross (hey, I'm not ready to go to the cross, I'm not ready to die...in fact, I want to live the good life like everyone else), and follow Me (that's fine as long as He leads me somewhere really cool and somewhere I want to go...)
The funny thing about it all, is when we actually deny ourselves, take up his cross, and follow Him, we find the very life we were seeking all along!
I can't think of anyone more blessed than we are. I mean that. God's hand has been on our lives throughout this wild, crazy journey we have been on now for more than 50 years. I wouldn't trade places with anyone.
"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS."
The reward, the "good life" is not something we get now. Rather, it will be rewarded to us when the Son of Man comes in the glory of His Father. Jesus will be the one to personally repay our deeds, ministry, toil, and sacrifices.
Thanks for whispering a prayer for us as we return to Ecuador a week from today.