Nick Mauer, Coordinator of Outreach & Evangelism
I’m a huge fan of journaling. Why? Because reflection is a powerful tool for growth. I recently had the opportunity to serve the Lord in Asia for a little over eight months. As I prepared a post-trip report for my sending church, I reflected on five key lessons God had taught me me during that season of life. I’m offering them here for two reasons: (1) they may be helpful insights for you and (2) they may encourage you to reflect. Mission trips are often riddled with obstacles, hiccups, and outright roadblocks. Here are some things to remember.
1. There will never be a perfect time to undertake some ministries.
My trip in Asia was confusing. There were times I wasn’t sure whether I was going to make it to my target country because of many layers of bureaucracy in their national government. The country is “closed” to traditional missions, and weeks before I was supposed to fly, my options for entry were few. I was faced with the question, “Is now really the time to undertake this?” Maybe the door to this country wasn’t really open to me. But then I was faced with another question: “How do I know there’s going to be a better time to do this?” How could I know that today wasn’t actually the best day—even the appointed day—for me accomplish this task? If I judge the rightness of a course of action by the ease with which I’m able to chart that course, I will likely never do anything significant for God. Paul said, “For a great door, and effectual, is opened unto me…and there are many adversaries” (1 Cor 16:9). Mark it down: adversaries do not equal a closed door. Expect roadblocks—there will never be a perfect time to undertake some ministries.
2. Satan’s attacks on the field look a lot like Satan’s attacks here—so learn to fight now.
You know what temptations I faced in Asia? Yep, the same ones I face here. Satan doesn’t grow special varieties of temptations for missionaries; he just uses the same ones with an added advantage—isolation. Living abroad, you often don’t have the support networks that you enjoy here in the States. So if you want to go overseas, fight sin now. Every victory you win, you will take with you across the ocean; every sin you cherish will hurt you there as much as here.
3. Sometimes God makes you fight for something you want, so that once you get it, you value it.
When my ministry partner and I first decided to pursue the trip, we didn’t foresee most of the difficulties. For my part, what should have been a flight over and a flight back, with a couple of leisurely flights in between became a confusing jumble of flight-legs in and out of multiple countries across Asia, and a couple of extended interstate or international bus rides to boot. Prior to the trip, as I was talking somewhat dejectedly about the roadblocks we were facing, my friend commented, “I think God may be forcing us to fight for this, so that when we get there, and face difficulties, we can look back and say, ‘Yes, I wanted this and I fought for it. I value it.’” Bingo. That was what I needed to hear. And that’s what happened. We faced difficulties all along the way, but I could look back to the beginning and say, “Yes, I asked for this.”
4. When God puts you on a train, don’t get off until He tells you.
Both before and during the trip, I had opportunities and temptations to take other paths. Other good paths. Other paths that people I love and respect would have applauded. I was offered a great ministry position in the States when it was still unclear whether I would be able to go to Asia at all. Once I got there, I had three separate occasions where I had very good reason to return home to US soil. In each of these situations, I was faced with a choice: to finish what I started, or not to finish. One day when I was particularly torn about the decision before me, I was talking to a family member on Skype, and they said, “When God puts you on a train, don’t get off until He tells you.” That image of a train—and me on it—stuck in my mind. Stick with each task God gives you until He tells you to stop.
5. Eternity will vindicate every Spirit-led sacrifice made in the short days of this fleeting life.
Service for Christ always means sacrifice. Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt 16:24). For me, the sacrifice involved leaving people I loved when they were going through some incredibly difficult things. Your sacrifice may look different from mine. It may be far more painful. The Apostle Paul, who knew what sacrifice was (just read 2 Cor 11:23-33!), had the right perspective: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor 4:17). Our lives are short and our sacrifice is light when compared with the eternal glory God has prepared for us. So soldier on.
Is God leading you to take a trip for the sake of the gospel? If so, you’re embarking on something enormously important and potentially life-changing. Don’t expect an easy ride. Prepare yourself now for the difficulties you’ll likely face—from your flesh and from the foe. While you’re there, stay close to Christ and journal about everything you have time to record. And after your trip, reflect.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.