This weekend I visited Davidson Baptist Church, a ministry that has supported me since 2006 for their annual Missions Conference. If your ever in the Hazzard Kentucky (no General Lee jokes please) feel free to drop by the Church, or better yet knock on the Pastors door and tell him John Wilburn sent you.
Before I continue lets just take a moment so everyone under the age of eighteen can Google the words “General Lee”
This weekend (conference actually lasted till Tuesday night) reminded of just how much I missed being at Missions Conferences, but probably not for the reason you think. It isn’t the opportunity to present my ministry or preach, the awesome food, a huge basket of gift cards they gave when we left, or even the generous love offering. It was the opportunity to fellowship with other Missionaries.
There are many wonderful things about the life of a Missionary but there are always challenges as well. One of these is nobody can truly understand what Missionaries experience or why they do things instead of, you guessed it, other Missionaries. Believers who have an interest in the ministry and pray for our needs are definitely a source of encouragement but in the end they don’t know what it’s like to leave your family and move to another Country.
This and other factors can lead Missionaries to experience loneliness and isolation, particularly in discouraging periods of ministry. Sadly their discouragement or frustration is coupled with a feeling that “they are the only ones experiencing this.” It reminds me of the words Christian author John Acuff wrote in a foreword to The Anxious Christian by Rhett Smith.
“That’s one of anxieties greatest tricks-it tries to isolate you, to put you on an island by yourself, to make you believe everyone else has it figured out except you. You’re the weird one. Better bottle that fear up and hide it. Better not tell anyone your feeling anxious. Better start to use the Christian F Word: Fine.”
This tendency of Missionaries to hide their struggles from others is why I love Missions Conferences; they are basically a place where we can let down our guard and be real. This doesn’t usually happen the first night, or the second, but somewhere during the third day as we chow down at the local all you can eat buffet (again) you start to realize the other Missionaries at that table understand what you’re going through.
As a Missionary I cannot tell you how liberating it is to not only make dear friends but latch onto the truth…I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO FEELS THIS WAY! That one thought gives the freedom to start sharing the good, bad, and yes even ugly experiences from ministry and rely on the other Missionaries for advice as well as support and meaningful prayer. There has never been a Conference where I didn’t drive home with a lighter heart because of the reminder that there is nothing wrong with me, discouragement is part of ministry.
Last Tuesday while studying for a sermon the Lord led me to speak on the first discouraging experience that caused me to question my calling in Australia (it happened two weeks after arriving on the field). After the service a dear Missionary friend ran up and thanked me for that sermon, he had some doubts while serving the Lord and bought into Satan’s idea that he was the only one struggling. But after hearing my testimony He realized emotion or “feeling called” wasn’t our motivation to reaching the unsaved, but Christ’s Love.
Missionaries need to be tough pioneering people in order to bring the Gospel to those who never heard, but perhaps if we spent more time being real about our struggles instead of trying to hide them less of us would quit and leave the Ministry.