myMISSION Missionary Blog

The Benefit of Staring

I have always been an observer. In my childhood years, some (namely my mom) might have called me someone who “stared.” She constantly reprimanded me in public places because my gaze would set on the most interesting figure in the room, and I would stare until my mind had found a conclusion to my curiosity.

Maybe I still am this way, but I try to be more covert in my observations of other people and less like 7-year-old Abi, with her mouth gaping open.

I have travelled the world and observed some interesting things in the public sphere, but the observations that have impacted me the most and at a deep level were those of the people who were in my direct community.

Every night as a child I would creep around the house, in denial of the 9:00 bedtime rule, and I would watch her.

She tidied up our home, watched the 10:00 news, and got ready for bed. Sneaking around, I would check in on these routines to assure my mind the world was spinning exactly as it should.

In the Stillness

“Be still and know that I am God,” seems to be a common verse from Psalms that Christians say or hang on their walls within their homes.

We try to remind our hearts to be still and know He is God.

But do we do it?

I don’t know about you, but this does not come natural to my Type-A, constantly creating to-do lists personality. Now maybe you are a natural at it and easily find time of aloneness (and if so, please tell me your ways).

I imagine for the majority of us, stillness is not something we try to attain often in our lives. It seems like days, weeks, and months can go by within the routine and demands and then one day we wake up and realize we haven’t been still before God in quite some time. In fact, when was the last time we stopped to hear His voice?

In different seasons, I have had the privilege to have a slower schedule and bask in stillness before God. So my heart has tasted and knows the sweetness of listening to His still, small voice.

No Sweeter Name

Jesus.

A name with a variety of thoughts, connotations, and feelings attached to it. In our culture, we hear the name used in slang or as a swear word. The name evokes opinions and thoughts as to who He was in history and, for Christians, what He means to them presently.

Many of us have grown up our whole lives hearing this name, whether it was in a church setting or in passing conversations.

We pulled into the village, unloaded our belongings at our hut compound and began to walk around meeting our new neighbors.

The desert sand was soft underneath my worn out sandals as they pressed down with each step sinking. Step after step we approached a smaller cluster of huts to introduce ourselves.

“Hi, my name is Abigail. I am from America and we are going to live in your village this summer to tell you about Jesus.” I spouted off in her language joyfully as I met the apprehensive villager staring back at me.

“Who?”

The Mission of Summer

Summer is advancing on us with warmer days, tank tops, and cookouts. Summertime is typically a change in our routines. It’s time for family vacations, church activities at the parks, and, for some of us, summer missions trips.

If you are reading this blog, I am going to assume you have a heart for the world and for serving the community around you. Maybe God has called you to a specific people group, demographic, or ministry to volunteer in or partner with in your community. Maybe this summer is a time where you are gearing up to go on a missions trip to the other side of the world or lead a team to a place you have been visiting for years.

Even though we have a heart for the world, sometimes our life circumstances don’t allow us to board a 747 for Asia. Maybe you have a full-time job that keeps tight reign on your vacation hours, maybe you have aging parents, or maybe you’re like me and my third-trimester self who won’t be boarding a plane anywhere unless it’s going to the labor unit at a hospital.

Letting Go

“The next ten years, at least,” was always my answer when people asked me how long I wanted to live in the Middle East. Following the greats before me like Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon, I admired the kind of faith and sacrifice they possessed.

My whole life geared toward that moment of stepping on the plane and beginning this adventure I had prayed for, researched, and anticipated.

In that moment, I thought that was the final surrender, to leave behind my family, my friends, my comforts, and my ability to communicate within my culture. I really did think I had reached my one big free fall and everything after was going to be a continuum based off of that jump.

Little did I know the true surrender would happen 2 years later, when God told me my one-way-ticket plan was not His and it was time to go back.

What?

Did I hear this all wrong?

The Eyes to See

The hearts of missionaries in full passion is a beautiful thing to behold. In my time in the Middle East, I had the opportunity to encounter the beauty of God’s children loving the nations, their neighbors, and embracing God’s vision for the world.

When I first met Frank* and LeeAnn*, they greeted me with flowers, balloons, hugs, and smiles at the airport. Stepping off the plane to my new home, I had no idea what to expect. When I walked around the corner to this couple holding my name on a handwritten sign, I knew they were my new home.

Frank and LeeAnn were one of the most humble and selfless couples I had ever met, and they loved their Middle Eastern people group. Everywhere they went in the city, they saw people. Any store they entered into. Any person they encountered on the street. Any waiter who took their order was someone for them to love and share Jesus with.

I’m Selfish

Have you ever had one of those really busy days? When everything you do seems to be overlapping with the next and you can’t seem to finish anything well?

Or, maybe you are like me lately, and this has been a season you are in. I feel like over the past few months I have grown to become queen of the to-do list.

My days, give or take a few changing variables, look like me groggily waking up to my alarm, rushing out the door to my 9–6 job, filling my breaks and lunches with an errand, then going straight from work to my next activity. Most of my evenings I have planned. Whether it’s small group, church volunteering, homework, or time with my husband.

None of these things on my list are bad. But over the last year, I have formed a cadence to my life.

My schedule, my time, my to-do list, and my rushing around, all of the sudden, has become a lot about me.

The Not-So-Easy Commission

When Jesus left his disciples with the Great Commission, nowhere in his verbiage did he say or did he even hint what he was asking them to do would be easy.

Jesus knew the sins of humankind. He knew that sharing the gospel would lead to discrimination, imprisonment, and death for these bold few He called.

Of course he knew. He had just experienced a tortuous death of his flesh.

The call to share the name of Jesus to the ends of the earth will always take sacrifice. It is not a call where we can sit within our comforts and delights and be effective in reaching out. Oftentimes in our lives, when God calls us to be bold and share His love, it comes at a cost.

Changing routines. Moving communities. Giving up money. Giving of our time. And for some, moving to distant lands.

We must begin loosening our grip on our time, finances, and family, in order to allow space for the kingdom at work to move.

Changes in My Plans

The way forward railway

Less than six months in, I knew the 2-year commitment I signed up for was about to look drastically different than my previous expectations. I moved to the Middle East, with a team I was going to walk alongside and a community that was welcoming me.

The day I found out my supervisors were no longer going to be the leaders of our team, it was clear from this point forward, the next year and a half was about to look very different than what I had in mind.

What we seem to never plan for are the bumps along the way. I don’t think any of us go into a circumstance expecting it to be easy. But few of us go into new situations looking for the potential bumps. We walk in obedience and take each moment as it arrives.

This drastic change in job, leadership, team dynamic, and community made the next year and a half really random to say the least. I moved countries 11 months in and had to readjust to a new dialect and a new cultural order. What initially felt smooth in my transition grew increasingly difficult and, to be honest, really lonely.

No one could have prepared me for what living in the Middle East on my own would have felt like.

The Cross of Crossing Town

It’s amazing how quickly we can become “comfortable.” I vowed after my years in the Middle East I wouldn’t give in to the American lifestyle, feeling entitled to a certain standard of living and implementing levels of fear and distrust into my life about the world around me.

Over the past year and a half, my small home I rent has started to feel really cozy. After my husband and I got married, we decorated and began to shape it more into ours. In this past year we had no idea the changes God was about to place in our lives. We discovered God was blessing us with a child and instantly we have started to take the steps to shift and adjust to the new addition coming to our family this summer.

One of the areas of our life we have been praying about from the beginning of our relationship is how to serve the community around us. We have been asking God for His vision for us and who He wants us to be as a couple in service to Him.

God has answered that prayer recently in big ways. He has opened up a part of the city for us to move to, with an opportunity to serve the community and show His love to people who inhabit the homes around us.

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