Don’t go back.
Consider the consequences.
Remain here as you are and do similar work.
I can not say for sure that any of these words were offered to Paul and Barnabas after their life threatening experiences in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch. It would be understandable if such counsel was given. There were plots made against their lives in Iconium. People from Antioch and Iconium had followed them to Lystra and convinced a listening crowd to kill them. Paul was nearly stoned to death in Lystra as a result. A decision to return to these cities surely meant more hardship and possible death for these courageous men. And yet, their work was incomplete. More opportunities to share the Gospel and encourage and bless new Believers in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch remained.
It was time to go back.
The consequences of not finishing their work outweighed any personal sacrifice.
They could not keep quiet.
Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. Acts 14:21-23 NIV
As I shared in an earlier post, there were some that questioned our family’s decision to return to South Africa to minister after my cancer diagnosis and treatment. Because of their love for me, they shared their concerns. We listened and we affirmed our family and friends’ love for us. Yet, like Paul and Barnabas, we knew that our work was incomplete in southern Africa. Our God had more for us to do. Cancer and its possible return are a possible threat to my life; let’s say a two out of ten percentage. However when John and I consider what our God has already taken us through to be on the mission field, cancer just goes on our list of obstacles that He has overcome in our lives.
John’s dietary needs because of keeping his rheumatoid arthritis in remission could have stopped us from reaching the mission field.
John’s work injury that led to surgery after surgery after surgery could have stopped us in our tracks.
Caleb’s birth defect of hemangiomas and the following steroid treatment and seven surgeries to prevent further aggressive growth that eventually brought repair to his lower lip’s disfigurement could have definitely prohibited us from venturing forward.
Jake’s diagnosis with sensory integration dysfunction and language impairment on the autism spectrum could have made us decide to remain in Oregon.
Amazingly enough, each challenge proved to be a stepping stone in our mission preparation.
Once here, more challenges rose against us that caused difficulties for our family.
We discovered Jake was being neglected and suffering emotionally at his school.
We experienced burglaries.
We were challenged by a flooding event that destroyed our security wall and caused significant damage.
We lived through two and a half years without the functional use of our sole vehicle.
We were challenged when we could not find a suitable school for Jake and Caleb and I realized that to remain on the mission field I would have to homeschool our young boys.
We experienced discrimination.
We were gutted when I received a diagnosis of breast cancer and could not return home to attend John’s dad’s memorial service.
Those who have followed our story here over the past 7 ½ years would most likely remember other tales of inconvenience, struggle and pain. Yet in the midst of every challenge and hardship our God was there; and He still is. And be assured, our struggles are not much different than any other missionary family on the field. We all are presented with challenges to trust and depend on our God to see us through.
The hardships we have encountered have enlarged and mended our broken hearts with the love and compassion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We serve Him and live our lives to honor and glorify His name in southern Africa. I believe that every challenge gives us a greater appreciation for the hurts, struggles and losses that others experience. We are here to encourage and strengthen ministry leaders in southern Africa who carry incomprehensible burdens for their church family, for their community and for their nation and even the world.
It is our honor and privilege to serve them even as we deal with our own challenges and setbacks. Hardships and difficulties will not stop us from obeying our God and doing what He asks of us today. We trust our God with our family’s lives and entrust Him to lead us forward. He is our hope and our strength.
We will continue to share the Good News that Christ has come!
We will remain in southern Africa as long as our God wants us to.
We won’t keep quiet.
We’ll keep going back to Finetown, to Zimbabwe, to Malawi, to Angola and to the towns and cities of South Africa.
We won’t stop. Instead, we will bless.
Photo by Holly’s Hobbies Cross Stitch of Flickr