6 Initial Lessons Learned on the Mission Field
My family and I have been missionaries in Thailand with OMF for six months. I cannot say that the time has flown, because there have been many difficult days in the transition. We made the transition overseas after pastoring for 16 years. In those sixteen years I learned many lessons the hard way.
As I now reflect on six months on the mission field, I feel compelled to write down and comment on six lessons God has taught me, or at least reminded me of, over this time.
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By Allen Rea
I am more stubborn than most and so my Father has patiently taught me some important lessons. As I share what I’ve learned, please understand that I am in process. I rejoice in the fact that “Christ came to save sinners.” I am still learning these lessons. I have not mastered them. I trust that He who began a good work in me will indeed bring it to completion.
Lesson 1: The priority of my relationship with the Father
These six months have been a reminder that the highest priority of my life must be my relationship with Him. I cannot even walk without Him holding my hand. In a chosen and deliberate exile from my home country and culture, I have learned anew the infinite value and possibilities of walking daily with my Lord.
My Bible reading and studying has not been about quantity; rather it has focused on the quality of my time with Him as I read. We gather twice daily as a family to hear from His Word and pray: once to start the day and once to end the day. As we gather weekly with our church family, we cannot understand every word said because of the language barrier.
As a pastor I was always listening to the preaching from great men of God, and I have maintained that habit here to ensure that I am being spiritually fed. If I am not rightly related to Jesus, I cannot hope to help others come to fellowship with Him.
Lesson 2: A healthy lifestyle is essential to long service
I am experiencing the joy of a long walk seasoned with prayer. I have learned to appreciate the rejuvenation from a good night’s sleep. I am learning to have the discipline to put down the language learning and just rest. I have been reminded to take care of myself.
Recently I was struck with a sickness that weakened me severely and left me in bed for a week, unable to eat. As I spoke to my Lord during those hours, I knew I did not want that fast-paced weight loss “program” I had been through to go to waste.
I am far from running a marathon or writing a groundbreaking new diet; however, I want to serve Him here as long as He will allow. I do not want my own negligence to hinder His use of me to bring the Gospel to these precious people that He died for.
Lesson 3: Granting grace to others, especially those in my family
Everyone has difficult days, even if we do not want to admit it. We can try to be super spiritual, but sometimes we just need to cry out and admit our struggles.
I have never excelled at giving grace to myself though. I have always been very determined, and the desire to finish a goal usually led me to wear myself out, as well as those around me. God has graciously taught me to grant grace to others and to remember that I do not always know what someone else is going through. God is also graciously teaching me to extend grace to myself as well.
Lesson 4: Language learning takes time
This is a lesson that I have to remind myself of daily…and sometimes hourly. The Lord is teaching me that language learning is a marathon and not a sprint. The only one that expects me to learn so fast is me. The only one that expects me not to make mistakes is me. The only one that has unrealistic expectations of me is me.
I was born and raised in the deep south of the United States; therefore, some might say – jokingly – that I have yet to grasp the English language. I have been blessed to have completed undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate work; however, I have been challenged in new and profound ways by having to learn a tonal language.
Learning a tonal language is among the most challenging and demanding things that I have ever done. I am far from fluent, but I have learned to rejoice in the small victories. I try to keep my goal in mind: preaching the Gospel to them in their language. He is teaching me to see language learning as an act of obedience in loving Him with all of my mind.
Lesson 5: Enjoying Him
We accomplish things every day that are new and challenging. What would be a simple task at home is a titanic undertaking on the mission field. I am learning to enjoy every aspect of every day that He has given me.
I try to whisper His praise in the never-racking Asian traffic. I attempt to raise a hallelujah in the frustration of trying to be understood.
Like the dear man that found the treasure in the field, I want to rejoice in selling all I have so that I may possess that which is most important. What good is sacrifice without joy?
Lesson 6: Patience
In America I had subconsciously taken on a scheduled routine that I dared not deviate from. The Asian people are so much more relaxed, and the only thing these dear people seem to be in a hurry about is eating. I freely admit that I have never been known for my patience, but I am learning to let the Holy Spirit produce this fruit of the spirit in my life.
I have come here bearing precious seed, and the farmer must patiently plant and wait for the harvest. I will not be fluent in another six months. I will not be fluent in one year. He who made Abraham, Moses, and David wait will not speed up my time simply to meet a goal. I am on His time schedule, and my Lord’s timetable is better than mine.
As we have barely begun our first term, I am looking forward to everything else that my Lord will teach me. I have not been the best student of His these past six months. My Lord has shown Himself to be a patient, loving, and generous Master determined for me to be the disciple that He wants me to be.
We often hear that God does not call the qualified; rather, He qualifies the called. I can attest to this truth. If I follow Him in faith, He will teach me patiently all that I need to be a missionary. I just need to be His faithful servant.
About the Author: Allen Rea has been married to Kara for 16 years and they have four wonderful children: Katie, Hosanna, Bella, and Isaiah. Allen completed his B.A. at Brewton-Parker College where he met Kara on the first day of freshman year. He pastored for 15 years in Georgia while completing his M.Div. and D.Min. from Luther Rice Seminary. He enjoys reading, writing, nice long walks, fishing, and playing with his kids.
Thanks for sharing your heart. I can feel your impatience with yourself in finding a subject you cannot master in a semester! Love to you and the rest of your 💞💞 family.
Allen, this is a great reflection and I particularly appreciate the sentence “what good is sacrifice without joy?” I too have needed lots of patience during my time on the mission field and trust that the Lord will provide what you need. Press on in Christ.