Keeping the dream alive can be difficult. For some, the preparation period is quite a long time. Because I was eight years old when I received the call, I had to wait twenty years before landing in the country of my dreams. The biggest challenge during the preparation is staying focused. Habakkuk 2:2 says “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” If you’re not reading it, you probably won’t run. So in addition to writing down the vision as it comes (which may be in bits and pieces), you can use creative ways to remind yourself. Something I did during my vocational training was to use a picture of the missionaries in Thailand as a bookmark in my most difficult textbook. Every time I felt like giving up, I looked at them and thought, “Just graduate and I’ll get to go there!” This was a huge motivator. I knew that if I did well in what I was doing right then, I could reach the dream of going to the field.
It’s Friday again! And this is a continuation of our missionary’s call to pray for her field of harvest.
When I received the call (i.e. saw the movie and felt a burden for that place), I began to pray for them. Every night, for four years, I couldn’t fall asleep till I prayed for them. During this time, my love for the place and people began to grow. Every time I saw someone with features that looked like they were from that country, I would feel drawn to them. And it would remind me to pray more. I began to dream someday of going there. At the time, I was a child and my prayers were very simple: “Jesus, please bless [country] and help the people there. Help the Christians stay safe and stop those bad guys who want to hurt them. Please make those bad guys come to know You, too.” Others found out that I was praying for the place and began to help me pray, too. I was praying for people I may never meet, and I believe God answered those prayers even though I was clueless. But the benefit for me was that it helped keep the dream alive and close to my heart.
(This article was originally published in the Cornerstone News Bulletin on the weekend of 15th/16th August.)
When I was a child, my family would often go to a lake in northern Michigan for vacation, where I would go fishing with my father. When we fished from the shore, we could sometimes catch minnows or small goldfish, but there was one lesson I quickly learned – if you wanted to catch the big fish, you had to take the boat out into the deepest part of the lake, called the “pike hole”. A number of large fish resided there, and we often caught our dinner when we launched out into the deep!
In Luke 5, we read of the time when Jesus met Simon Peter and called him to be His disciple. Peter and his associates had been fishing all night and had caught nothing, but Jesus told him, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch (Luke 5:4).” Peter obeyed the Lord, and the result was astounding, “When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking (Luke 5:6).” Peter had been working hard all night with no success, but the moment he obeyed the Lord and launched out into the deep they hauled in more fish than they could even handle.
This story is instructive for each of us – if we are going to bring in the harvest that God has for our lives, we have to be willing to launch out in faith into the mission that God has for us. We are all called to be “fishers of men”, and God has a great catch He wants you to bring in. However, it won’t happen when you stay near the shore – within your comfort zone, your security, your self-sufficiency. The further you launch into the deep, the greater your results will be.
This is especially relevant for us when we consider the mission field. For many of us, we prefer staying in the comfort of our own home or nation. If we are going to travel, we are naturally inclined to the places that are the nicest and the most secure. But God has commanded His followers to go into the entire world, into every nation – not just the comfortable places but the difficult places as well. If you feel like you are in a rut of fruitlessness in your life or your ministry, perhaps the answer is to shake yourself out of your comfortable surroundings and throw yourself into missions.
Just this week, we sent two young adults to our church plant in Miri, Malaysia. They are both committing three months to help build our young church there through our Cornerstone Overseas Volunteer Program. They don’t know for sure what awaits them in Miri, but they do know that God has called them into missions and they are going in response to His call. You can read about their stories here at the Cornerstone Missions Blog. They are launching out into the deep, despite the fact that they don’t know exactly what awaits them, and I believe they are going to be very fruitful in this season of their lives. God always honors our faith when we launch out into His call!
So my question for each of you this week is this – what is God calling you to “launch” into? Of course there are ways to launch out in faith while still in our home nation, but many times stepping into the foreign fields will serve as an extra impetus for our faith. Maybe God is calling you to go on a short-term mission trip, or perhaps to spend several months on the mission field. For a few of you, He could even be calling you to give up your career and give your life fully for the nations. Perhaps it’s a financial commitment He is calling you to, to launch out in radical giving so the Gospel can go into all the world.
Whatever God is stirring in your heart, I want to encourage you – today is your day. God has a great inheritance waiting for Cornerstone in the nations, and it will take the faith-driven obedience of each of us to obtain this prize. Let’s each launch into the calling of God for our lives. Go out in faith, away from the shore. Step out. Go out. Get out. When you launch in faith, you will receive the great catch that God has for you. Launch!
Pastor Cameron Walcott
We will be publishing a series of short articles penned by an experienced missionary on her journey of being sent out to the mission field. We pray that her journey will inspire many to heed God’s call to missions for their lives.
Of the first of this series, we will begin by exploring her initial call to missions.
For me, the call was simple. I was watching a movie about persecuted Christians in a certain country, and my heart broke. I began to weep with compassion. And I couldn’t forget them. Since I was quite young at the time, I think my parents thought it was a passing phase. But after a couple years of not forgetting, they began to realize that it was the call of God on my life for missions. Sometimes I think the call is misunderstood. I believe that the first call of God is always a call to a deep relationship with Jesus Christ (Phil 3:14). The call to missions such as the Macedonian call that Paul heard in a dream (Acts 16:9-10) is secondary. However, the call to missions may be a huge factor in drawing us closer to Jesus, and therefore should be pursued if received. Often receiving the call is not as clear as writing on the wall. Even Paul only knew he was called to the Gentiles at first. He tried to go to Asia but the Holy Spirit stopped him (Acts 16:6). Then he tried to go to Bithynia and the Spirit of Jesus said no (Acts 16:7). Then he had the dream of the guy from Macedonia asking for help, and they concluded that God had called them to go preach the gospel to them. For me, just seeing the movie and not forgetting the people made me conclude that I was supposed to go to them. It’s interesting that in the book of Acts, after receiving the Holy Spirit, the early church often seemed to presume they knew what God wanted them to do. And they were right. Acts uses phrases like “concluding God had called them” (Acts 16:10) and “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28)… which makes me think that the leading of the Spirit is very fluid and natural. In missions, Jesus already said, “Go!” So only question left is: Where? For some, it may be local and it’s true all of us are called to reach those around us. But others may have a burden for a specific place or people group. When that burden comes, it’s good to begin to pray.
7 Missionary Myths
Eating only bread and water, spending all day on their bruised knees, struggling constantly with paying bills and endless spells of malaria and diarrhea- is this the life of a missionary?
Today, many people would associate missions with a life of suffering. Joy, reward and fulfillment are thought to be but fleeting moments in the mission field. Reading missionary blogs by missionaries who have been disillusioned by the church back home “who just don’t understand me anymore” no longer put fire and hope in our bellies.
So truly, what’s the real deal? After having been on the mission field for almost 8 months, we thought to share a glimpse of reality through our eyes. While this does not mean in any way to belittle the very real and trying struggles that many missionaries do go through while serving in a foreign land, there are many joys, highlights, and rewards of serving in the field as well, none of which could be possible without the love, support and encouragement of loved ones and of course, Cornerstone Community Church back home.
Here are 7 common missionary myths which we discovered in our journey, to our pleasant surprise! We hope it will encourage you too!
Myth 1: Missionaries always suffer loss.
Giving up secure employment and a comfortable lifestyle are just some of the sufferings people assume all missionaries have to go through. When we first decided to serve in Uganda, I, too, felt an initial sense of grief, upon considering all the luxuries we had to “give up” in Singapore.
Looking back, this has been an amazing adventure. We “lost” our previous home in an urban jungle, but gained a cosy home set atop of a hill, overlooking the sunrise and sunset, amidst wild trees, monkeys and a variety of different birds. We “lost” our old jobs sitting behind desks, but gained new organic roles visiting the poor in villages, learning to farm, preaching, teaching, in public health, amidst others. We “lost” our lifestyle of eating out all the time in air-conditioned food courts and restaurants (rojak, laksa, chicken rice), but gained a lifestyle of eating healthy home-cooked meals (with rugby-sized avocadoes costing twenty-cents a piece), in the breeze of our front yard.
In doing missions, we do lose our previous lifestyles, but this in no way translates to “loss”. In fact, we can even gain a rewarding and adventurous experience! : )
Myth 2: Missionaries get forgotten after a while.
After all, they’ve left home for so long. Friendships must be hard to keep up. When the church starts a new agenda or embarks on a new programme, the missionaries they first sent off with cheer and gusto will then soon be forgotten- right?
Wrong. In this day and age of technology, relationships are far easier to upkeep with email, Whatsapp, Skype, Facetime, and Facebook, just to name a few.
During our time here, we have been so encouraged by the heartfelt thoughts of people back home. Email responses to our prayer letters, text messages that convey “We are praying for you”, and Facebook comments encouraging us in our journey have never failed to touch and encourage us. When the church celebrates an event or embarks on a new programme (#365), we’ve always been informed, and have had lovely photos of those events sent to us, just to remind us we are still part of the Cornerstone family. Friends and loved ones have offered to send us care packages.
Not once have we ever felt forgotten.
Myth 3: Missionaries always struggle with bills.
They don’t have a stable job, the needs are everywhere, so it only makes sense that missionaries are always in a financial rut, right? Wrong again.
While fund-raising can be the bugbear of some people’s missionary journeys, we are incredibly grateful for the financial support and giving of the Church. While our principle is only to ask God, and not people, for any financial needs we have, God has surprised us time and again by the timely generosity and love of friends and strangers, who have invested into our lives and ministry.
People had warned us that other people’s generosity and enthusiasm would fade after a while- it would be sooner or later that we were tight in our pockets again.
However, God has always, through the love of our Church and friends, provided what we needed every time- on time! God always knows what to provide, and when. As famous missionary pioneer Hudson Taylor would say, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply”!
Myth 4: Missionaries are always tired. They can never rest.
Needs are everywhere and people back home are supporting missionaries financially to do the work at large. So, it’s not logical that they should have time to rest. When they take a holiday (if they ever), they must keep it hush-hush, so no one judges them for it.
Well, not quite.
The mission field, being in a less developed country with a slower pace of life, often offers the beauties of natural landscapes, wildlife and quiet time. The nature surrounding us has refreshed us continually.
During our time here, we have also been deeply touched by friends who felt led to give directly to specific occasions which were meaningful to us, so we could take time to rest and celebrate occasions, even while being away from home. How thoughtful!
Myth 5: Missionaries get sick often.
With Africa being known as a high-risk region for malaria, requiring the yellow fever vaccination, and having a lower level of sanitation, people were worried for us. Likewise, in any other less developed part of the world, one is inclined to think that food poisoning, amoebiasis and malaria are “common ailments”.
Truth be told, we did take turns having the runs in our first month on the mission field. But once our bodies became acclimatized, we rarely fall ill. With common-sense precautions like mosquito nets, malaria is over-rated. With just a bit of asking around, we also found access to affordable and good healthcare, even for my husband’s liver transplant follow-ups.
With the large quantity of fresh, green produce here and a lifestyle offering time for exercise, believe it or not- we both feel our healthiest!
Myth 6: Missionaries don’t decide what they get to do. They’re just controlled by the home church.
Heartbreaking stories of miscommunication between the home church and missionaries on the field do exist. Yet, we’re here to say they don’t represent the entire missionary experience!
With Cliff being an IT specialist by vocation and myself being a medical doctor, we aren’t constrained to only teach computer skills and treat the sick. In fact, most of what we do now on the field comprises empowering the poor with livelihood skills, through rabbit farming, soap-making, beading and sewing. Cornerstone Church has given us time, space and creativity to build relationships with the locals, journey with them, and see how we can serve them, based on what they need and not what we can offer.
We are blessed that we have ownership over what we do, and hence find satisfaction and joy in doing so!
Myth 7: It’s hard for missionaries to head back home.
After being out of their home country for so long, missionaries get some sort of an adjustment disorder when they head home, right? A fast pace of life, and an inundation of speaking and social engagements to supporters on top of work commitments can make assimilating into a new rhythm of life hard. Looking for a place to stay or a new job can also be challenges.
Those are real fears we have, too, about heading home.
But we trust that as far as God has provided for us in our stay on the mission field, He will also provide for us sufficiently when we head back to Singapore. After all, it’s the 7th myth!
COVP is a life-changing experience. Drop email@example.com an email to find out more today.
Written by our COVP couple to Uganda, Cliff & Wai Jia Tam
Pastor Daniel Kropf is a Zion Fellowship missionary to Tanzania, where he is an itinerant teacher teaching in Bible schools across the nation and continent of Africa. Originally from the United States, he is the son of missionaries and has lived in Africa for most of his life. Pastor Daniel recently spent several weeks visiting Cornerstone in Singapore and wrote this article especially for the Cornerstone Missions Blog.
Many times when we think of missionaries the things that come to mind are people serving in exotic locales having been sent out from their original lands and supported by groups at home. Certainly this is one form of missions, and part of the response of the Church to the great commission should be to actively seek out opportunities to send people to the ends of the earth and to support those who go. This is intentional missions and is thoroughly biblical. However, there is another type of missions which has been surprisingly effective that could be called accidental missions. People who are where they are because of circumstances, seemingly by chance and even perhaps against their will, but who use what they have, where they are for the glory of God. In this post I would like to view a few examples of this both from Scripture and Church history.
Accidental missionaries are responsible for most of the conversions we see in the Old Testament (Ruth, the men who threw Jonah overboard, and even king Nebuchadnezzar are all examples). One of the most striking examples is the example of Naaman. The story of healing from leprosy and conversion from idolatry to following the Lord is found in 2 Kings 5. Most interesting though is that it was through a humble servant girl, a captive of a slave-raid, that he heard about the prophet Elisha. This unnamed young girl had lost her freedom, her family, her nation, but she had not lost her God and was able to bear witness that bore fruit in the lives of one of the most powerful men in Syria.
In the book of Acts we see that one way the gospel was spread was through believers fleeing persecution (Acts 8:1-4). This is how the church at Antioch originated, which then became an intentional missionary sending church (Acts 11:19-20). Thus the early church grew through both intentional missions and through ordinary believers sharing the gospel in whatever situation they found themselves.
Georgia, the one with Tbilisi not Atlanta as its capital, was converted through the influence of one woman. This woman, named Nino, was a woman of prayer from the Roman Empire who was taken captive by the Georgians. According to the church historian Socrates, when the son of the king was sick, the queen sent the child to other women to attempt whatever remedies they knew to cure the child. The captive woman laid the child on her bed and said that Christ who had healed many would heal this child also, and then prayed. The child was healed and shortly after when the queen herself became sick and was healed by Christ, she became a Christian. For a time her husband remained pagan until he became lost in a mist while hunting and failing to find his way while calling on his gods called to Christ, whereupon he saw a way through and was able to return home. He then became a Christian along with his people.
Ethiopia was also converted through Frumentius, a young man who had been made captive there, and placed by the king in charge of his records. He became a guardian of the king’s young son in his minority after the death of the king. At this time he built a small prayer house for Christian merchants and local Ethiopians began to join the church as well. When the king came of age, he was allowed to return to his home city of Tyre. On the way he went to Alexandria to ask for a bishop to be appointed over the church he had begun in Ethiopia. Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, sent him back as a Bishop to complete the work he had begun.
From this and other examples we see that the great commission is not only fulfilled when we seek out exotic places and send people to preach the gospel, but equally through ordinary believers who in the place they are, make use of what God had given them and share the gospel in their own circle of influence. God working with them changed the course of countless lives for eternity. Let us be both intentional and accidental missionaries making use of the opportunities we find and actively seeking out new ones for God’s glory! Amen.