3 Things I've Learned Being A Missionary
The Importance Of A Sending Church
When we left for the mission field, we had a lot of people from our church meeting with us and praying for us. In fact, in one of the services we were brought before the congregation and prayed for. This gave us confirmation and comfort even though we knew we were heading toward unfamiliar territory and had a lot of work to do. When we landed in Nicaragua everything changed. We were in a new environment: different language, different culture, different food, different living conditions, different transportation. I remember after a couple weeks of Spanish classes that my head felt like it was going to explode. Due to some poor advice, we decided to disconnect with the culture back in the States and take a break from social media and even communication with those in the States. While the idea of this makes sense since you are trying to adopt a new culture, it ended up setting us back a lot. For one thing, we lost contact with our supporters, the people who were donating financially and praying for us. We also lost contact with the church that had sent us out. We didn't know how they were doing and they didn't know how we were doing. Living in another country or even another state somehow makes people forget about one another and so it's important to maintain contact. We didn't and soon people even forgot that we were gone. Being in a new place can sometimes make you feel alone, and we certainly did and had no one to talk to about it.
"While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off." Acts 13:2-3
You Feel Alone, But You're Not Alone
Although we did feel alone and really needed the Christian community from our sending church, we were not alone. In those times of sadness and frustration, God met us. He was always with us. He is true to His Word that He will never leave us, nor forsake us.
When God called us to move back to the States we underwent probably the most difficult season for us as a married couple and even as individuals. We felt rejected, abandoned, robbed, and very hurt. I remember being in the airport in Managua and we were just wrecked. When we came home and it was difficult to let people know really how we were. I honestly think some people just thought we just needed to "move on." But moving on is a lot harder in this instance. We had lost all relationships in Nicaragua and most of the people we were friends with before we had left had moved on from us. This is just a reality of living so far away and being out of sight and out of mind. In all of our brokenness, God met us and we knew that He knew what it felt like.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." Hebrews 4:15
God's Plan Is Always Better!
Having to rebuild our lives here in the States has been a journey. My work background has always been church related and so I tried getting a worship leading job when we moved back at a church in Wisconsin. I remember sitting in the seats during a Sunday morning service thinking that we would fit right into this church. After the service, we met the pastor in the lobby and started talking about their worship leader job opening. As we shared our story of how we had to suddenly move back to the States the pastor put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Tony, you guys need to heal." This first struck my pride, since I was excited about getting a job at this church, but as I thought about it I knew he was right. God used this sentence to make me see that I needed to focus on my first ministry, my marriage as well as my own heart. Since this conversation, Dianne and I landed at Redeemer Fellowship where the pastors and elders have graciously allowed us to heal amongst a strong gospel community. For the past year, I have been apart of a pastoral development program with four other guys who plan on going into ministry. I remember being in that airport leaving Nicaragua asking God what He was doing, now things are becoming clearer. His plan is always better.
"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good." Genesis 50:20
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11
"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6