God gives each person their own style of maintaining their spiritual walk. In this post I’ve described ways that God has enabled me to stay close to him. I’m not suggesting that what I do is any better than anyone else’s. I’m no spiritual superhero! And really, it is more to do with him holding me close than me clinging on to him.
Daily time in the Word and in prayer
My husband, David, and I have read the Bible and prayed together in bed before breakfast for our entire marriage. This is our main personal prayer time for all that (and who) we’ve committed to pray for. We have a prayer list that helps us cover lots of territory. We use Our Daily Bread as a Bible reading guide. I’m not saying that we always do a great job. I have been known to fall asleep while David takes a turn in praying. But we are consistent (at least during term-time, during school holidays we aren’t).
I read a lot. Not just read fiction, but also non-fiction. This is not easy, particularly as reading is the way I wind down at the end of the day and edifying books aren’t always easy to concentrate on at that time. Usually once a year I spend a number of weeks reading only Christian non-fiction books. I’ve also gradually read through the whole Bible a couple of times in the last five years using a reading plan notebook someone gave me for Christmas.
Sermon in English
For cross-cultural workers, church is difficult, particularly those like me who don’t have a great grasp of the language. Listening to a lengthy speech is a very difficult linguistic skill. I am thankful that we go to a church that has simultaneous translation (through headphones). I get a paper copy of the translation when we arrive and I try to read that quickly, then listen to most of the sermon in Japanese. Without the translation, listening to a sermon in Japanese for me is more of a linguistic exercise than a spiritually helpful exercise.
I’m a bit unusual in OMF Japan, though. Learning the language is a high value in our mission and many long-termers have much better language than me.
I also try to listen to a sermon in English from our home church while I eat lunch during the week (they put it on their website). That’s always a great encouragement.
I attend a number of prayer meetings, both OMF gatherings and ones at our boys’ school. I find it really helpful to pray with others, it helps to keeps me on track.
We also have the privilege of many people praying for us. I count it as one way that God is maintaining my spiritual zeal, by answering all those prayers.
God has also deepened our faith as we’ve relied on the prayers of people at especially difficult times, like when we’ve had children in hospital or when my father-in-law passed away. In my last post I talked about various stresses that we encounter. I didn’t mention that these things cast us on God’s strength again and again. Having to cope with difficulties strengthens and deepens your faith.
I’m sure some people think it is terrible to have to rely on others for our financial support, but the truth is—it is a blessing, because we’ve seen God supply our needs over and over again. That is a wonderful encouragement to our faith.
Each year I go to a missionary women’s retreat and most years OMF holds a conference for its Japan members. Both of these are spiritually refreshing times.
Home assignment is a time away from the country you serve in and one of the purposes is for spiritual refreshment. After pouring oneself out in another culture, spiritual refreshment is very important. Worshipping in your heart language is a real joy after being overseas for a long period.
Missionaries need to be proactive about maintaining their spiritual zeal. They need to be self-feeders. Spiritual passiveness just won’t carry you through. I don’t believe it does anyone any good, actually. Actively pursuing a deeper relationship with God is not an easy task, but one of great value, one that God honours.
The last blog post in this series will be about relationships with other missionaries.
By Wendy Marshall
Wendy is an Australian who has been in Japan with OMF since 2000. She’s married to David who teaches maths and science at the Christian Academy in Japan. She’s an editor and writer. In this nine-part series she answers searching questions about her experience of life and ministry as a missionary.
Read all the posts in the series: