“Where are you going? What are you doing? When will you get there? When will you start doing mission work? How long do you have to wait?”
These are some of the most common questions missionaries hear when they speak to people about the ministry. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with those questions, they often betray some un-biblical assumptions. Missionaries faced with these questions are often embarrassed or even ashamed to admit they have to wait to get to the field. They feel pressured because those questions tend to suggest that:
- Waiting is not “real mission work.”
- The mission field out there is more important than the mission field inside our own hearts.
THESE ARE BOTH LIES!
Since graduating from the CPCP last June, Lauren and I have been looking forward to getting to Oaxaca. From June through December we waited in Georgia while raising support and building our relationship with our sending church. Since January we have been waiting in Los Fresnos while Lauren gets some training and I gain a little more experience. Later this year we’ll be going back to Georgia to wait for our baby to be born and get old enough to travel.
But even once we get to Mexico, we have more “waiting.” First comes Spanish language school for Lauren, followed by a period of culture and language acquisition which will last until we both reach a satisfactory level of fluency and adaptation to life in Mexico. And we thought after that the waiting would be over… until recently.
During the second part of our trip Lauren and I were able to spend a few days with Ruben and Debbie Ibanez and their family in village J. The Ibanez have been living in village J for almost 2 years along with their other team member Chris Berger, and we soon figured out that missionary life includes lots of waiting!
Many missionaries (and many sending churches) expect that all they have to do is show up and then God is going to start bringing people to hear the gospel, and they are going to start preaching immediately without any problems, and God will start saving people left and right! But the reality is getting to our destination is only the beginning of a life-long process of waiting – waiting to learn the language, waiting for opportunities to share the gospel, waiting for people to understand it, waiting for visas, waiting for support, waiting, waiting, waiting… But why?
We wait because we are following God’s plan – not ours. Waiting does not mean inactivity – it is doing what God has for us to do when he wants us to do it and where he wants us to be. Waiting means we give up our agenda, our plans, our goals and we let God set them. Waiting is an active, daily decision to die to our strength and our abilities and live by God’s grace alone. Waiting means acknowledgement that God is just as interested in changing the heart of the missionaries as he is in changing the hearts of the lost.
Waiting is “real mission work.” It is God’s mission work in the lives of his followers. And he will not stop until HE is satisfied!
So instead of being embarrassed, frustrated or even ashamed of having to wait, we should rejoice! We should be excited that God doesn’t send us without equipping us; that he doesn’t let us minister to others unless he is ministering to us; that we know he is at work in us and he is with us, and most often the only way we can know that is if we wait.