The Beginning of Missionary Life

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One of our fellow PBT missionary couples wrote a in their monthly newsletter in 2010 a summary of the experiences they had during the first year that they were on the mission field in East Africa.  It is truly amazing all the things that they did.  Enjoy their story, and then I will write about a few things that I recall from our first year of living in Papua New Guinea.

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Reflecting on our first year on the field as full-time missionaries, I recall both triumph and trial but through both evidence of the hand of God at work in our lives. Here’s a snapshot of the last year:

We arrived on September 17th, went through basic orientation to life on the field, attended language school for 2 months, spent a month living in a village to further our culture and language acquisition, became involved in branch and community life, attended our first Branch meeting, participated in two consultations, took on responsibilities as exegetes and taught in the annual training all the while continuing in our language learning with the help of several tutors.

    

Those are the facts, these are the feelings we’ve experienced:

We have felt excitement over the distribution of Scripture portions, discouragement due to the complex and challenging task that we still face and feel inadequate for, and hope for the transformation of a culture. We have experienced several bouts of parasitic and bacterial dysentery, skin issues and other consequences of physically adapting to a new place and climate. We feel relief over being spared from malaria this first year.

We have felt a sense of accomplishment as we successfully communicate something in a second language! We have felt encouraged by our team-mates and national co-workers. We have ached over our longing to be with our families back in the States. We have rejoiced over babies being born to friends and colleagues and grieved over the loss of parents and even children.

    

We have felt like children having to learn all over again how to speak, act and live in our new culture. And we have felt grown up after successfully learning how to feed ourselves and set up our home and drive on the left side of the road! All this and more has been packed into a single year of our lives.

God has not only seen us through but given us all that we need mentally, emotionally and spiritually to be His witnesses. Our triumphs are ultimately His and the trials have served to deepen our dependence on Him. We are so grateful for the amazing support we have from the home front and the mercies of God which are new every day.

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For anyone who has not travelled outside of their own country, and I think especially for North Americans, it can be difficult to really appreciate all the challenges that missionaries face when they first leave their home country and culture and start their lives over within a new cultural context.  In those first hours and days, the missionary is bombarded with sights and sounds and oftentimes smells that can be very overwhelming.

Quite naturally, as missionaries prepare to go to the field, they will talk to those who will support them through their prayers and donations about the ministry work that they will do once they get there.  Pioneer Bible Translators helps to train and send linguists, church planters, administrators, and many other support workers to the field.  But we must never forget that these highly skilled people are still just ordinary people.  And we have experiences of joy and sorrow and fears just like anyone else.

    

It certainly was a big adjustment for me and my family as well when we first came to Papua New Guinea.  Jill and I had already had a number of other mission field experiences.  But when we came to PNG, we were also bringing our two young boys with us as well.  And just like any other parents, we worried for the safety and the health of our children as we settled into a small village in a remote part of the tropical forest of PNG.

I remember quite clearly during those early days how I would walk through part of the village and around the grass airstrip area holding on to the hands of my boys.  I would then carefully explain to them what the boundaries were of where they could go and where we did not want them to go. 

Those boundaries were pretty restrictive at first, since we had no idea yet of what to really expect.  But as we got to know the people and the area, and as we continued to experience God’s hand of protection and provision, we grew to love the people and the village where God had placed us.

    

The “missionary life” is not something that everyone is cut out to do.  But it is also not something that only those who are “spiritual giants” can do.  But leaving the safety of our own personal comfort zone to reach out to people who are hurting and don’t know Jesus yet is something that God calls all of His children to do.

You have probably heard about or seen the sign that hangs over the door on the inside of some churches, “Entering the Mission Field”.  The saying is cute, but it is also very true.  God calls all of us to be missionaries.  It won’t be easy for most of us.  Some of us may travel thousands of miles to respond to this challenge from God.  Some of us only need to step outside of our door.  In either case, God is faithful and He will help us to do all that He asks us to do.

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Pray For Your “Enemies”

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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  Loving Enemies Through Prayer

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves” (Matthew 5:43-45 Message).

Ask any unbeliever unacquainted with the Bible to summarize the basic principles that Jesus taught and “love your enemies” is sure to make the short list. Everybody knows that this is something that Christ followers are supposed to do. And most of us feel like we do do it. That’s because we’ve reduced Jesus’ words to mean: tolerate your enemies, or ignore your enemies, or don’t do anything bad to your enemies. We respond to Jesus’ command with passivity.

But when we look at this command in its context, we see that Jesus will not settle for a passive response. He expects us to take action. What action? Let’s read it for ourselves: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

Loving our enemies includes doing good to them, blessing them, and praying for them…including the guy who cut you off in traffic, the teacher who crushed your child’s self-esteem, the mechanic who “fixed” your brakes three times in the last week – and they still squeak, the politician who got elected on a platform that you oppose…and the list could go on.

As soon as we redefine enemies as “those who get under our skin,” we have a lot more people to pray for. And every time that someone does something that really makes us angry the prayer-prompter bell ought to go off in or heads.

–Adapted from Prayer Coach by James L. Nicodem.

Loving Father, You have commanded us to love our enemies…even those who simply aggravate us and “get under our skin.” Help me to lovingly respond to these people in my life by praying for them. Give me Your grace to do what doesn’t always come naturally to me. Change my heart so that I can offer this powerful gift of love rather than getting angry or upset.

Posted 7 Nov 2011

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Wow!  This devotional gives us a whole new light on the concept of our “enemies”.  In fact, for us who live in North America, there are very few of us who would be able to say that we have encountered “the enemy” in our daily lives.  When we say the word “enemy”, we have some idea in our minds of the people whom we fought against in World War 1 and World War 2.  Or bring it more up to date, we think of the terrorists who brought about the terrible disaster of 9-11, and their associates whom we call the Taliban in Afghanistan.

There is no doubt that we would consider them our enemies.  But if they are the only ones we label as “enemies”, then the Scriptures above found in Matthew 5:43-45 and Luke 6:27-28 would appear to have very little relevance to our lives today.  So that got me thinking, and I looked at some of my translator’s resources to see what it said about who, or what kind of people we could really consider to be our “enemies”.

I found that one of them was quite helpful, called Translator’s Handbook, which gave this suggestion when trying to translate Matthew 5:43.  It says, “If there is no word for enemy in a language, then translators use a phrase such as ‘the person who hates you’ or ‘who opposes you.’ “  Now Matthew does go on in the next verse to tell us to pray for “those who persecute you.”  Again, I dare say that few of us have suffered much for being a Christian in North America.  Though I think the day is coming when we actually might have to.

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So let’s just stay with this idea presented from the Translator’s Handbook.  We are to show Christ’s love and to pray for people whom we know just can’t stand us, for whatever reason, and who display hostile emotions towards us.  I think all of us can probably picture at least one person in our minds who would fit this description.  Then we know what we are supposed to do when the next time comes around that they show this animosity towards us. We are to respond with kindness and not harshness, and we are to pray for them.

I remember a girl on one of my summer mission trips when I was just 18 years old myself who seemed to almost enjoy being nasty to me and to others.  I talked to one of my leaders and they gave me this very same answer: “You still be kind, and you pray for her every time she is mean to you.”

I followed that advice from that leader.  And by the end of the summer, I found that she and I were getting along pretty good.  Now did she change for the better?  Or did I see her more through the lens of Christian love?   Or maybe it was both.  In any case, I had found that pushing back against someone who was opposed to me was not the answer.  The answer back then, and still today, is that our best response to a negative person is to pray for them, give the situation over to God, and let Him bring about the needed transformation.

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