While away, I read a memoir of a missionary. He was a general practitioner for the beginning of his time overseas, but later specialized in ophthalmology. He spent time in seven different countries, and it made for a really interesting to read.
I hope his book is a little like this blog is for our life: just stories, all wrapped in his honest thoughts on it all. He doesn’t always focus on what he should tell about, but just his thoughts. He is honest about their struggles, their strengths; the times when he prayed or the times he should have prayed more.
There were a few little anecdotes I found really interesting and wanted to pass along; perhaps you’ll find them interesting and perhaps not.
On describing their first trip headed abroad, starting with a stop in India, but serving in Indonesia & Nepal, “We feel fortunate to have had the experience of ship travel on our first assignment abroad. Present day jet travel denies on the delightful and usually luxurious recuperation afforded by the few weeks, or even months, at sea. After a typically hectic send-off, whether going or coming, a chance to rest is more than welcome.”
I found this so intriguing. I have really grown to love the two days it takes us to fly all the way to Thailand. I find myself hoping for layovers. Being unable to shower isn’t always fun, but sleeping at the airport is always so deep–probably because I am so exhausted. The work we get done on the computer always feels so accomplishing–probably because we have been swamped and gotten so behind! The time to read and watch movies and just sit feels so rewarding–probably because we haven’t stopped for weeks leading up to it. I can completely understand the beauty of a few week at sea, and I’m completely jealous. And I will still be thankful for every layover, particularly those in Seoul, my favorite airport yet!
My favorite chapter was one titled, “How then shall we live?” He talked about cultural clashes between expatriates, the great debate of when to live like locals and when to live as we are comfortable, the rules of mission boards, cross-cultural marriages. All the things we see and ask and debate. It just felt so close to all the questions we ask every day. He described this discussion on their “witness in a hostile land…or if we should witness at all”:
“‘Our lives should be our witness.’
‘True, but we must also speak for the Lord, no matter what the consequences.’
‘If they kick us out, there will be no Christian presence at all.’
‘But the Apostle Paul didn’t stop preaching, in spite of warnings.’
‘If only the involved person gets kicked out, okay, but what if the whole team is ousted?’
‘Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.’ (Romans 13:1)
‘We must obey the rules.’
‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’ (Acts 5:29)
‘Isn’t it deceptive to say we’re doing medical work, when it reality we are here to preach the gospel?’
And so on and on went the dialogue.” (p.76)
Stephen & I haven’t had this exact conversation–probably because we don’t live in a closed country–but we have plenty that are oh-so-similar about most everything else we encounter. We go in circles like this, among ourselves and among others, quoting Scripture here and there, analyzing this situation and that. It feels like we are putting together a chaotic puzzle. And perhaps the picture might look different to each person, and they might all honor the Lord! How then shall we live? We are asking this all the time, and it was so refreshing to hear his questions. And honestly, it was refreshing to hear his lack of answers!
Throughout the book, I was amazed at his stories–times they were kicked out of countries, lost children, or took incredible risks. I was primarily challenged to two things. First, to be thankful for the experiences here–both easy and difficult–that are shaping us now and will shape us always; to be grateful for that opportunity. It is weird and different and unique; and it might leave us that way. But it is a whole new perspective into other cultures and communities, and we are seeing Christ in a whole new way. Rejoice in that, because I saw that he really did. And second, to just love the Lord wholeheartedly. He didn’t argue his ministry, he didn’t have a good reason for everything they did; but they loved the Lord, they wanted to honor Him, and that was blessed.
There was just some very simple encouragement and camaraderie buried deep within his stories.