I can still remember how stressed I was that entire day because the bulletin listed us as going to Ecuador as Mass Media Specialists. I had insisted throughout the appointment process that we be appointed as Music/Mass Media missionaries. I can't help but smile, that 24 years later, we are still dealing with title issues and roles. I never have quite accepted any title or role assigned me yet!
One of the things I have come to realize during the past few months, is the high cost--the sacrifice--involved in obeying our calling to serve the Lord as cross-cultural missionaries. For most of my life I have had the attitude of tossing aside any semblance that we are "sacrificing" anything for Jesus. I guess we have always seen our own condition as far more blessed than the vast majority of people we relate to on the mission field. We have been given so much. What are we sacrificing? Are we really out there "suffering for Jesus?" God has provided for our every need. He has always been faithful.
And yet, following God's call on our life as overseas missionaries has been costly on us as a family. We have given up much. Each member of our family has had to pay a real price. I don't know if things would have been better or worse living this time in the USA, but I do know it has been costly to us as a family emotionally, spiritually, physically. In a real sense we bear real "scars" of our choice to follow Jesus like we have.
I have often thought about Jesus response to Peters words in Luke 18,
"Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You." And He [JESUS] said... "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life."These words were the text of the message preached by Keith Parks at our appointment service as missionaries 24 years ago today. I have always focused on the last part that promises we will receive "many times as much" for the little we might have sacrificed. But there is no skipping over the high cost entailed in leaving behind those things and people in order to fulfill one's calling. There is a price to be paid. It isn't easy.
I guess it is only human to wonder, "what might have been" had we chosen NOT to heed God's call and taken this step 24 years ago? When we see the lifestyles of our friends and peers, we can't help but wonder what kind of life we too might have lived had we chosen differently.
Don't get me wrong, we aren't regretting for a moment our choice. I can't imagine our lives any differently! I wouldn't trade what we have lived and experienced these past 24 years with anybody on earth! But anniversaries are a time to reflect on God's goodness and faithfulness. I don't believe He is quite finished with us yet. And I can't help but believe the best days are yet ahead!
Some of the questions going around in my head these days are:
- has it been worth it?
- are we really making a difference overseas?
- have we really made any kind of lasting, significant contribution?
- is it time to move on and do something else?
- is the work better or worse off for our being there?
- have we been faithful?
- is it time to return to the USA?
- does God have more for us to do here before relieving us of this responsibility?
- how do we balance of obeying God's call with the needs of our children and aging parents?
Before William Carey, the "Father of the Modern Missionary Movement" went to India, he said to the little society of believers sending him, "I will go down the mine, if you will all hold the ropes for me."
Will you continue to hold the ropes for us?
Click on the above images to zoom and see better the program and people we were appointed with.