Some of the most important life lessons that God has taught me have been ones gleaned from the mission field and being involved in missions over the past decade. Whether big or small, joyful or pain-filled, I wouldn’t change them for anything, because God delights in bringing good out of circumstances that seem to the human eye to be “bad.” In fact, it’s often the hardest, most painful lessons that turn out to be blessings in disguise! So whether I viewed them as “good” or “bad”, I’ve come to cherish them, especially in the ways that they brought me closer to Jesus Christ. Here are a few of these lessons:
There’s more to the world than me and the sooner I learn that, the better!
At 13, I took my first trip out of the country. It was my first mission trip and my first glimpse outside of the “American bubble” that I had grown up in. God used this trip to pop my bubble, so to speak, and open my eyes to the hurting, needy and lost of the world. I went from a 13-year-old mostly focused on herself and living in her own little world in wealthy, spoiled USA to a 13-year-old passionate about sharing Christ and His love and truth with the world around me.
Flexibility can come any time of the day or night and in practically any size or shape!
Flexibility doesn’t pick a convenient time or place. I learned that for the first time in Romania ten years ago when my mission team leader talked about us having plan A, plan B, plan C, and Plan D and then ending up doing Plan E, which wasn’t one of our options at all! This character quality also popped up when we got ready for a day of doing some church work and instead getting sent out to do house-to-house visitation to share the Gospel. Or when I really couldn’t stand the food item on my plate but had to smile, say “thank you” and eat it anyway. These times taught me to keep my expectations on Jesus and Him only, praying for Him to work as He would.
I came to appreciate Isaiah 55:8-9 because it reminded me that He really does do things differently than I would: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Personal suffering, injury or illness doesn’t mean you must stop doing God’s Kingdom work.
While I was doing missionwork in Taiwan for 1.5 years, I experienced some of the worst suffering, injuries and illnesses of my 24 years of life. I spent way more time in doctor’s offices, the ER and the hospital than I had ever imagined. I became adept at understanding certain medical terms in Chinese and knew to respond to my Chinese name when called in the waiting room. The week my sister came to visit me after her own month-long mission trip on the island, I was very sick with dysentery. I could go on and on with various illnesses and injuries I endured, but I won’t.
The reason I share this is because ironically enough, the time I was the weakest physically, had lost weight, and could barely go 30 minutes without rushing to the bathroom was the time that God gave me the most open doors in ministry! Humanly speaking, I should’ve been taking my meds, resting and not doing much of anything but God doesn’t always work that way. Instead, He opened up a door to minister in a Buddhist orphanage, visit a new village on a weekly basis, catch up with former students, participate in a book study with fellow believers, share Bible stories in another village every week, and many other opportunities. The opportunities just kept coming and God kept opening the door wider and wider – all while I was so sick and weak. But I found out in this time, that when I am weak, then He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).