Caleb just wrote our OC International prayer letter commemorating our ninth year of missionary life in southern Africa. I won’t spill the beans about his first published prayer letter (if you receive our OC letters, you’ll be able to read Caleb’s words in March). However, his letter did cause me to reflect upon what has contributed to our continuity in this part of the world for nine whole years!
How is it possible that our family is still here?
There have been days that we celebrated and relished their delights. And there have been days when our hearts have been crushed by the depravity of man. Those of you who have followed our journey are aware of the joys and the sorrows of our mission life through the years. We have soared high with the zenith moments. We have walked dark, discouraging paths through times of betrayal, deceit, jealousy and distrust. There have been countless blessings, though. Inevitable setbacks have arisen for various reasons. There have been days when we pulsed with the energy and conviction of a thousand mighty men. And there have been days when we have struggled with exhaustion to take one more step. And yet we have done it. We have lived, laughed, grieved, shouted, moaned, and rejoiced our way through nine years of living day by day on the mission field.
What is the secret sauce that has helped us endure here?
I believe it centers upon the will of the heart of others to extend the gift mercy to our family and that our family has chosen to offer the gift of mercy in return. Mercy is our secret sauce which has empowered our enduring life in Southern Africa.
The Hebrew transliterated word for mercy is checed. Checed means to show kindness, goodwill, favor, compassion, and pity for the poor, the miserable, and the afflicted.
One may not describe our family as poor, miserable, and afflicted. In truth, we are at times. Actually, most of time! And so is everyone else!
We are living in a place and with many different people who are outside our known culture, faith, and experience. Without their gift of mercy to us each and every day, we’d be lost. When I make a cultural mistake, I am offered grace. When I am impatient and gruff, I am given kindness. When I am hurting, I am cared for. When I am misunderstood, I am blessed with acceptance. When I just need to go “blaaaaah,” I am comforted. When I have reached the end of myself, I am strengthened. These small acts of mercy offered each and every day have contributed to my decision to remain in South Africa over and over again.
In addition, others are living in our midst, who are suffering with poverty of spirit, misery of soul, and the affliction of disease, heartache, and death. They, too, need our mercy and grace. When misunderstandings occur, and inevitably they do every single year, we have learned the infinite value of extending mercy without judgment. It isn’t always easy, nor is it fun at times. However, when offenses strike our heart, if we do not choose mercy, we find ourselves sunk within a pit of resentment, bitterness and distrust. What good is that?
Without the gift of mercy – mutually extended – over the past nine years in every area of our lives, we’d never have made it to this nine year commemoration mark. There is no doubt in my mind.
Our missionary lives have taught us and continue to teach us of the long term value and investment of choosing to live a life of mercy.
Jesus understood the secret of mercy when he said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7 NIV
James revealed the secret of mercy when he wrote, “Mercy triumphs…” James 2:13
Micah shared the truth of the secret when he proclaimed, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
Mercy enables our family to live the triumphant life in Christ! Mercy is the secret sauce we’ve needed to endure and thrive on the mission field for nine incredible years! And that’s an amazingly blessed and joyous way to continue onward in southern Africa! We are grateful for the opportunity and humbled by it.