A Drive for Purpose
“I have been blessed to have served in Christian ministry all over the world. One of the universal similarities I have discovered is an innate drive for purpose beyond just survival. The Lord desires for each of us to find that God given internal drive for purpose.
Part of our purpose is to learn to understand and embrace the beauty of cultural distinctives. This is a beautiful challenge and one that can only be achieved by the Holy Spirit working within all of us.” –Rodney Pennington, Vice President of Mobilization
Four of our workers share how they have found this purpose, learned to thrive in difficult circumstances and experienced the beauty of working in missions.
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Prayer is Life-Giving
Working in the US for a mission organization isn’t glamorous. We didn’t move to the jungle or an impoverished area.
Instead, we moved to middle-class suburbia.
People like to hear fun stories that awaken their imaginations and excite wonder. Without those stories it takes real commitment for others to understand the impact of our work.
It’s easy to feel unseen and unappreciated.
Having a handful of people around me invested in the holistic care of our families can be the difference between surviving and thriving. This has come in different forms: from offering to be our accountability partners when we moved to Colorado, to supporters sending comfort snacks from home.
The longer I work in this position, the more I’ve come to realize how much I treasure the prayers of other people.
There are some seasons when our work is very heavy and we become weary.
To have people come alongside us in prayer is life-giving. In one particularly hard season, the prayers of our partners felt like physical burdens were being shouldered with us.
Like anyone, I question whether my family is getting the attention they need, whether my marriage is being nourished and whether we are teaching our child to walk in the ways of the Lord. One of the most meaningful things a partner wrote to me recently was that she was praying my daughter would come to know the Lord – how deeply moving it was to know that we weren’t parenting alone but with the family of God.
That includes prayers not just for our work, but our families too. We’re whole people and my mind is occupied by more than the work before me.
Katie Fisher, US Serve Asia Follow-Up Coordinator
Relationship and Refreshment Replenish Us
The work on the field is intense. With so many needs (spiritual, physical, emotional, etc.) it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
My husband and I learned that “the need is not the call.” We prayed and asked God for discernment and guidance to know what he was calling each of us to do, as we certainly could not do everything that needed attention. We had to learn to pace ourselves in the work in order to keep going in long term ministry.
In our initial years in Japan, we found we needed spiritual nourishment in our “mother tongue” as we could understand so little of the messages at church. These were the days before internet. We asked family members and our home church to send us tapes of church messages as well as Christian books to read. Attending the weekly prayer meeting with our colleagues also helped to provide some spiritual nourishment and greatly filled the need for fellowship until our language skills were more developed.
I found that I also really needed a “soul mate” girlfriend with whom I could not only share heart-to-heart, but with whom I could also do creative, or life-giving” activities. During our first term, I began to pray specifically for such a friend.
Then one day when I was shopping with my three-year old daughter in a local store, I looked up and saw another “foreigner” along with her two young children! This was quite a rare experience as we lived in northern Japan where few foreigners lived. We introduced ourselves to each other, learned we were both from America, exchanged phone numbers and met together as families soon after. My new-found friend, Ruth, was an answer to prayer–a gift from the Lord! We have remained good friends over the years.
Since we served cross-culturally in Japan for over 20 years, we are now still in the process of re-acclimating to American culture. Fortunately, it’s not quite as physically or mentally exhausting as it was to learn the Japanese culture and language!
Whether in Japan or the US, I’ve learned to intentionally plan time for life-giving activities to replenish and refresh me. We also have found regular exercise helps us keep going in ministry for the long haul.
Jan Thompson, US Prayer & Care Correspondence Coordinator
Adaptability is Key to Thriving
When I was doing short term mission trips, I discovered having an adaptable attitude was key. You can prepare, pray and think you are going to rock it, but then you and your best friend find yourselves doing a puppet show for a bunch of 5th graders who…Do. Not. Like. Puppets.
Adaptability is the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions.
In the case of the puppets, my friend and I had to humble ourselves and modify the plan we had our hearts set on. We weren’t perfect and adapting was hard, but we ended up growing from it.
Adaptability is a major part of my job as a Serve Asia Coordinator.
Because missions is a world of constant change, what you expect may not be what you get. This past year has tested my adaptability in a new way, not only to my work environment, but also in how I disciple, mobilize and come alongside my Serve Asia Workers.
It has not been easy to adapt and I have benefited from acknowledging my frustration and grief.
Adapting has also taught me to lean more on God and trust His plan for Serve Asia and the future of short term mission.
Aspen Peterson, US Serve Asia Coordinator
Integrate Boundaries and Rest
The burden of “reaching the unreached for Christ” can be unbearable at times.
When we were missionaries in Japan, we were often faced with the question, “How can we rest when there are people dying without Christ?”
While it is good to have an appropriate burden for the lost and a strong commitment to reaching them, ultimately the burden is on Jesus’ shoulders and we should not attempt to carry it.
We must take time to rest, play, recreate, and disengage from the activities of “reaching the lost.” Not only does this demonstrate our trust in God and not ourselves to accomplish the work, but it’s absolutely essential if one expects to avoid “burnout” and last on the field.
Bryan Thompson, US Volunteer Ministry Director
As a new missionary in Cambodia, I found something helpful and relatable in each of these pieces of advice! Thank you!!
As a former missionary I see the wisdom in all four points!
Great stories for reflection and growth – thanks for pulling this together!