“When you surrender to the Lord and serve Him with all your heart, it is always worth it!” Does this sound familiar? Having finished our second term on the mission field, I realize now that the statement holds truth depending on one’s perspective about the God one serves. If your God is the All-powerful, All-sovereign, All-knowing God that the Bible teaches then it is worth the cost. Many though do not fully comprehend what those costs are, or assume that missionaries are almost super human and can face anything easily. But being a missionary is not easy and does not get easier just because a person obeys God’s will for their life. A missionary is just a normal Christian who has been given a special opportunity to learn the lesson of clinging to Jesus, only Him.
I had the desire to be a missionary since childhood. God is smart to put that desire in a child who is innocent to the hardships missionary life can entail, and whose God and faith are so strong and not yet tainted with the “wisdoms” of the adult mind. I had dreams of ministering where no man had gone before and surviving on the bare minimum to do so. Kids have huge dreams!
In the end, after much prayer and God orchestrating the next stage in my life which included marriage, stateside ministry, and children, God started working more specifically towards missions. To make a long story short, after seeking third world countries and seeing God close doors and push us in other directions, we headed to Scandinavia. This was not at all what my childhood pictures had portrayed to me. Now we are buried in snow all winter (good thing my college in Wisconsin gave me lots of practice), working with people who have no desire for the Lord (and see no need for Him either), and living in a society that lives only to please self. It is not always easy and yet as I see and meet these people, I learn they are just as lost as any native. They just have to be shown how much God loves them. They need to see a godly life demonstrated in front of them. I am learning to see more clearly that “God so loved the world”, not just those who I think look needy.
Living in this country is cold outside, but even colder in the hearts of the people. That makes for harsh spiritual living conditions. Immoral thinking is rampant, so one must be constantly filled with the truth of God’s Word to stand strong against it. You must be faithful in ministering even if no one shows interest for 20 years. You have no great numbers to report, no masses of churches that have been started. You learn that to God, one person who listens to the gospel, one person who shows interest in a Bible study, one convert in eight years – are all miracles!
On top of the discouragements of slow ministry, you realize you and your children have to face new governmental regulations you do not agree with. They cannot be schooled at home anymore – that is supposedly this government’s job. They must learn about things that we know the Bible teaches against. They hear and see things we might have been able to protect them from a little longer somewhere else. They must learn this new language from others who teach them swear words right along with the good words. They will shed lots of tears as people see them as different due to their life choices. We must invest time daily to unteach the evil that has begun to take root in their minds and then fill up the empty void with the truths of God’s Word.
And in the midst of all this it is tempting to think that all we can do is pray, when prayer is the most powerful weapon we have. So we pray – A LOT – and rely on the Spirit to pray on our behalf when words do not come easily (Rom.8:26) You realize you must trust God, who led you to this land, with your dear ones as you send them out into the lion’s den so to speak. We have to remind ourselves often that we are in the safest place we can be in life when we are in the center of God’s will.
After we adjust to realizing that this missionary life for God is going to take hard work, complete dependence on God, and an “I’m not going to quit” attitude, we realize that we cannot just run to other Christians for encouragement as we once did. We realize that apart from God, we are alone. On deputation all those wonderful people who shake your hand to say, “We will pray, we will write, we will not forget you” … But real life sets in and you realize that many of them were just being nice. (Now I know many people who do remember us and pray for us and I am sincerely thankful for them. And know that it would be that much more difficult to survive here without them). I am talking about all the others, the ones who acted like your friend, even wrote an email the first month you arrived. But after a few months, you realize life goes on in America. And if you are not seen, you are not remembered. So you feel completely alone.
To top it off there are no genuine Christians to fellowship with, no doctrinally sound churches to attend, and your husband is now your family’s pastor and you are now your children’s Sunday school teacher and if you don’t get the job done, no one else will help. Wow, what a wonderful life I had growing up in America. The Bible was taught in Christian school, in AWANA, in youth group, in Sunday school, in church, in prayer meeting and also in our home. And that was just in one week. What a relief for Christian parents to have that support network to help each other pass on the Bible’s truths. So you can see how discouraged I was to learn that if I didn’t do it all, the children would not learn. So I focus on the truth that God’s Word is all they need and teach as often as I can in every walk of life, praying that someday when they return to the United States they will find a good Bible believing church where godly men and women will get behind them and help them move on in their life for the Lord.
Once we get the fact cemented in our heads that we, our family, could be the only Christians we know here; once we help the children understand that there are no other Christians to fellowship with or be friends with, then we face one more thing. Our family is not just a county away any more, but a couple oceans away. I knew it would be hard to say goodbye, but it has been very hard at times. The days come and go – relatives die and you cannot say goodbye, and family members become really sick and you cannot help, or blessings take place and you cannot be there to rejoice with them.
When years pass and you haven’t met new cousins or had many dates with your husband because there is no one to help anymore, then you finally realize all you have had to give up to follow God. And you turn to Him and ask Him to fill all the empty places in your heart and help you to run with endurance this “race” He has set out for you. You cling to the promises in His Word and to His character which will never change and some days you can only cling and hang on in prayer … (remember we are only human).
But other days you see His blessings and His faithfulness and provision and you worship Him for who He is. When you have fought through several years on the mission field and realize you can return to the USA for furlough the excitement level is high. Then you are shocked to realize that reality in the USA is not the same as you once knew it. Things change, people move. You have changed and look at things with new eyes.
You go to a church and meet one of those people who promised to write but never has, and you smile anyway and try to see them as God sees them and love them just the same. Sadly you see many who only seem to be in church because of an obligation, while you are singing with tears in your eyes as you haven’t sung with a group of Christians in years. Your children finally meet other Christian kids for once and are shocked not to feel welcomed, or they see that some of the Christians can dress and act worse than their unsaved friends on the field.
We all see things we have gone without for years, and must guard for jealousy and stay focused on what God has asked of us. Time flies on furlough as you try to minister to supporters and squeeze in some time. You come to understand that you, but mostly your children, do not fit in in either country anymore. And it can make you feel really lost.
Then once again you find yourself going to the One person who understands, the One who called you and can help you like no other – Jesus. And you realize what you are doing is so little compared to all He did for you. Is my God big enough? Yes.
Is it easy to be a missionary? No, not always. Am I tempted to look back at what I had and wish to go back to the USA? Yes, when I am focusing on Satan’s lies instead of God and His Word. But all this was shared not to get pity, but to give understanding and insight into what life is really like for a missionary.
Missionary wives/mothers are just humans like any other Christian wife/mother. We still hurt, hope, strive, cry, rejoice and hopefully seek God’s will at any cost. But no matter what “work” is accomplished on the field, the true work has to be done in our hearts and character as God molds us more like His Son. And this is His goal for every believer, so cling to Him and His Word and allow Him to work in you!(My favorite verses to cling to are Romans 8:26-39.)
more I have been learning and growing in God’s will, I have backed away from
saying “called” as often as God calls each Christian to so many
things in His Word. It was more like a definite leading which was made more
apparent by God closing all other doors all along the way. We knew God
wanted us here because He miraculously provided the needed funds on deputation in
an amazingly short time, continued to close all doors except for the ones
leading to Scandinavia and gave peace along the journey.
you think God might lead any of your children to continue as
missionaries in Scandanavia?
Lord alone knows where and how He will provide for my children in the future.
We have no permanent visas or citizenship here, so once they are no longer
dependents, they will not be able to remain in Scandanavia for longer than
visits. Unless they return as adults on work visas, etc. Thus
we must prepare them for moving on even though that is hard for me to think
about. My oldest is almost 16. They would have to pay to continue schooling
here or in the States and here there are no/not many Christians to be found
(thinking toward marriage) , and if they will one day
live in America, a degree from here will not be the best and they will
need to start working on their English more. That is why we are seeing the
States as the one country they legally can move to and stay in for as long as
needed.And possibly get some good Bible education and maybe even meet a godly
the Lord leads our children to return to Scandanavia, praise
God. But, I can see that they have been starved for so long from
normal Christian influence, that they need to be filled for a while and then we
will see how God leads in the future. It is harder and harder for people to get
into this country, so they might not be able to get in as missionaries any