To My Friends in Missions & Ministry At Home & Overseas
It struck me the other day, as I was scrolling through social media, that I know you feel left out some days. One friend’s announcement of a new home here in the States was juxtaposed next to another friend’s request for prayer to respond to a natural disaster overseas. The two posts, side by side, reminded me of how I sometimes felt when we lived overseas—like everyone else was moving towards life’s milestones while we remained stagnant in our roles on the mission field.
While our friends back home were promoted in their companies, added new degrees to their resumes, and moved into increasingly large houses to match their increasingly large salaries, we lived in a mission-owned building and did the same thing, week after week, for years. No new degrees, no promotions, no new houses. At the time, I loved what we did. I really did. Our ministry was and still is a joy to me. But I confess that I received news from home with a twinge of envy and maybe a small side of resentment that others were moving on while we stayed the same.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that God was indeed growing us. He was in fact moving us on to new things, but they were inward things. They were unseen things. They were the the things that were shaping our identities as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.
So, my sweet friends in ministry—you who live in the US or overseas—I want to look you in the eyes and say, you will have no regrets.
The role you now have—the one that requires you to constantly prepare sermons and Bible studies, the one that includes opening your home all the time, the one that forces you to love the unlovely, the one that keeps you on your knees as you walk by faith and not by sight, the one that makes you question what you really believe because your circumstances are harder than you imagined—that role is a gift.
Your hard roles are producing fruit, even now. The constant preparation to teach the Bible to others is shaping your faith. The constant practice of hospitality is honing your view of worldly possessions. The time you give to others is teaching you to hold all 24 hours a day loosely, according to God’s will, not your own. The poverty you witness is revealing to you true riches. The acts of service you are doing day in and day out are molding you into the image of our God. The daily, quiet, hard tasks you are called to are creating your identity in Christ.
It’s a fact that your trials are producing a steadfastness in you, so that you will be perfect and complete (James 1:2-4). Like Paul, you toil to make Christ known with all his energy that he gives you (Colossians 1:28-29) and, like Paul, you will learn the secret of being content (Philippians 4:11-13). Take heart, friends, your efforts are not in vain. Others are not actually passing you up. You, too, are progressing, but it may be unseen. Your promotions and ladder climbing are inward fruit, not outward accolades.
And might I say here that I thank God for our friends who are in “typical careers” here at home. I praise Jesus for Christians in all vocations—holy callings, every one. Wherever our brothers and sisters are, Christ is.
But this letter is meant to be from me to you—from one full-time ministry worker to another. Be encouraged. Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27), is growing you even in the moments when you feel like you’re missing out. And your Father, who sees what’s done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:4).
Press on, for His glory.