There’s a heating pad warming my feet, cushioned between crisp sheets under a few fluffy blankets. The little lamp on the bedside table hasn’t flickered… not even once. And my tummy is full of homemade turkey soup, spinach salad, and two cups of mint tea. It’s time to go to sleep in this warm brick house on a quiet side road in Springfield, Missouri.
The missionaries told lots of stories around the conference table this week. They bantered back and forth about the most embarrassing, the funniest, the most awful times on the field. They were matter-of-fact about the hardships and culture shock their families live with over the years.
Sitting around the dinner table, the veteran missionary with whom I’m staying shared a few experiences of her own. For a year in the ‘90s, she and her husband lived in an 8X10’ room in Asia, saving money to help nationals build churches. She’s seen hardship, deprivation, and served hundreds of overseas visitors without a thank you or remuneration.
“The hardest things were small, like finding American candy wrappers tossed in the garbage by thoughtless guests. They never shared, never considered how much something like that would have meant to us and our children. Over the years, the big-name evangelists and pastors who stayed with us never wrote to say thanks. If they didn’t stay with us, they’d live in the best hotels. Yet they never left behind any of the hundreds of dollars they saved by having me cook and not staying in those accommodations.” Nancy wasn’t complaining, just remarking on the state of things.
There were also funny memories, like the evenings in the tropics when she and the kids captured the huge bugs that flew around the dim kerosene lanterns and stuck them on pins to dry. “Some looked like sticks. Some had monkey faces. We caught all kids of insects!” They’d slip them into the envelopes and send them to supporting churches, along with their newsletters.
“We like to hear from you, but please don’t send the bugs,” begged one squeamish pastor’s wife.
Nancy is still active in ministry with her husband, but the kids are grown and married. “When we’re together at Christmas, we’ll laugh and talk about things we used to do. For instance, after we’d light the two little wall lamps after dark, the kids would amuse themselves with ‘lizard baseball.’ They’d watch the lizards stationed at each light, and shout out the score of the number of insects snapped up, first this side, then that.”
There are all kinds of experiences I’ll never have. What richness God brings to each life! And what a joy it is to hear of the hundreds of churches planted because the sacrifices of women, men, and children like Nancy’s family. She and her husband are still active missionaries, still traveling to teach around the world, and still raising support for national work.
I appreciate that they go in our place, while we live in comfort and plenty. If your local church doesn’t support missionaries, I know a lot of people like Nancy and Bill who really pinch those pennies for Kingdom service. I’d love to point them out to you if you can squeeze $10 from your monthly Starbucks budget. (They’ll take more too, of course.)
*A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps. A wise man fears the Lord and shuns evil, but a fool is hotheaded and reckless. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. Proverbs 14: 15, 16, 27 NIV
*Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1, 2 NIV