The name of the author and his place of service are being withheld for security reasons.
We give thanks to the Lord for the privilege to have served the Lord from August 20 to the end of December 2013 as missionary associates in a city in Asia. The seeds of our desire to serve had been sown gradually since we adopted our three daughters as infants from Asia. The Lord had planned from all eternity that these three girls would be our daughters who we would nurture to love Christ.
Through the process of adopting our daughters, the Lord gave us a deep bond and love for Asian people. After returning home with Elizabeth in 2006, we prayed for the opportunity to serve there and the Lord opened the doors for us to return in that service in the late summer of 2013.
We were profoundly and permanently transformed by our experience! Debbie and I remember the precious people and our experiences there and speak of different remembrances daily.
The base of my ministry was teaching conversational English to two classes of 50 freshman university students. I wondered before we left about how the Lord would use us to help the students come to a personal knowledge of the gospel since we would only be with them for one semester? How would I build relationships with the big language, cultural and age differences in order to share the gospel?
The Lord opened meaningful opportunities to get to know students and to share Christ with them. Students were very open to spending time with me over lunch or to just talk with me in the hallway or my office. As they shared their goals in life and hurts as well as joys the Lord gave me open doors to love them in concrete ways and to share Christ with them.
The greatest impact made on the students was through our family. Most of the students were the only child in their family. Quite often they would express amazement that we would be willing to adopt three children from their country. This amazement gave me a great opportunity to share about God's adopting us into His family. I emphasized that our adoption of our daughters is an expression of God's love for us in the gospel.
On the last day of class our teaching department had a Christmas cultural lesson. I presented the good news from Luke 2, that God out of love for his people sent his Son Jesus to die for our sins. Towards the end of the class, my family joined me and we sang Christmas carols as part of the English lesson. We were thankful for this opportunity to share Christ's love with the students.
Several of my students who had suffered from living in a broken home, told me that they were influenced by seeing the love of our family for each other and for them. This was a testimony to God's love working in and through us to bless the students.
God opened unexpected doors for ministry abroad and deepened my vision that the gospel is working powerfully wherever his servants are. It was encouraging and humbling to experience that the gospel is bearing fruit throughout the world.
Along with teaching students, my main responsibility was shepherding our friends who served there. One of the shepherding responsibilities was to lead our team meetings, which included Bible Study, a time of sharing and prayer. This was a challenging opportunity to teach God's Word in a different cultural context. The Word of God strengthened and equipped us to serve with a system that presents obstacles to the gospel. The pressures of service in this system can be depleting spiritually and physically, but the Word of God and prayer together sustained us.
It was these pressures that created a longing to be recharged by God's Word. As we studied the Book of Hebrews, the Lord gave us insights and encouragements to better evangelize and disciple our students.
Serving as a missionary associate or for a short term will strengthen not only your commitment to missions but your congregation's. We faithfully receive prayer requests from our missionaries. But the real test of a church's commitment to the Great Commission came when we were called as a family to make the sacrifice for five months to help provide a furlough for a missionary and his family. As one of our elder's put it the church wasn't so much giving up its pastor and his family as sending them forth. Our family's service tested and strengthened our church's commitment to missions.
The fruit was a deeper partnership with our missionaries, the work of the gospel in the larger world and prayer for missions. Sacrificial service glorifies Christ.
We pastors firmly believe that God has a plan for His church and we serve as undershepherds. We know God's plan is not dependent on us, but as faithful shepherds we may wonder how God's sheep will be cared for in our absence. God provided for our congregation wonderfully through a retired OPC pastor and his wife. They served with love and were loved by the church family.
The work of the gospel will go forward in ways we never dreamed when we take the step of faith to serve short term abroad. Your congregation will see God is always faithful and blesses a church that makes sacrifices for missions.
My family and I were revitalized as the Lord brought us out of our comfort zone and put us in a very different culture. One in which we had to try to learn a new language and relate to people in a different culture. This demanded trusting the Lord in everything from taking a taxi to buying groceries to learning to be cautious when presenting the gospel.
We all learned the priority of being willing to give up the comfort of the familiar to minister God's love cross culturally.
Through teaching an English Bible class in a local church, I had many opportunities to evangelize and disciple people in the city. When a retired middle school teacher came to me before class, I asked him if he was taking the class because he came to the church. He replied " No, I am a Marxist and Marxism teaches self sufficiency." We talked for a half hour during which time I compared the teachings of Marxism with the gospel of Christ. I challenged him, "Marx and Marxism did not die to take away your sins but Jesus did and Jesus is the only one who was raised from the dead for you." He came to study English but this desire was to be used by the Lord to confront him with the claims of Christ.
These are the kinds of experiences that continue to live on inside of me and compel me to share Christ with others.
We learned that while we went to serve and support our missionaries and friends, God was also doing a deep work in us. We learned much about trusting God, loving people cross culturally and encouraging our friends in missions.
The Lord refined us and humbled us to serve in a fresh way. Our church family has learned to pray with greater zeal for missions, and to more appreciate our partnership with our missionaries.
To God be the glory for His work of missions!