Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Hardship Page 1 of 3

grumbling against leaders
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Unhappy with leadership?

Grumbling and complaining should not be the theme of our conversations at this time of year with Thanksgiving just behind us and Christmas before us. But we are living in difficult times. Most of us know friends who have been sick with COVID-19 and many know friends who have died from the virus.

Frustrated with leadership decisions

But the grumbling we hear is probably not primarily about the virus. The preventive measures others are imposing upon us have caused much frustration. All around the world, governments are making decisions to restrict the further spread of the coronavirus. Despite their good intentions, these decisions are nevertheless causing additional hardships. We are limited in how much we can interact with friends and family. Most of our churches both back in our home countries and in our places of ministry are facing restrictions in how they hold worship services.

Many people, particularly in the West, resent the intrusion of the government into our social, family, work and religious lives. We see anti-mask demonstrations on the news, although those of us who live in Asia probably do not see any such protests. Nevertheless, if we follow posts of our friends and family in the West, we know that many are very upset with the government’s restrictions on their personal freedom. You may have found yourself wondering how followers of Jesus should respond if we feel that the measures to counter the spread of COVID-19 are actually more harmful than the virus itself.

Understandably, we are getting tired of this crisis. Longing for life to go back to normal, we find it hard to be joyful and thankful. We find it easy to complain when we are looking at spending another holiday season apart from our friends, hampered in our ministry outreaches and struggling to stay safe.

What is a good and godly response?

missions in midst of crisis
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Book Review: Practicing Hope: Missions and Global Crises

Every year the Evangelical Missiological Society publishes a monograph containing papers from the previous year’s annual meeting. This year’s title is Practicing Hope: Missions and Global Crises, edited by Jerry Ireland and Michelle Raven. Yet before we assume the book is talking about COVID-19, we need to remember that when these papers were presented, no one knew a pandemic was coming. Jerry Ireland notes:

Practicing Hope

In September 2019 almost 300 missionaries, missiologists, sociologists, theologians, anthropologists, and students gathered near Dallas for the annual meeting of the Evangelical Missiological Society. The theme was “Missions Amid Global Crises.” I do not think that any of us would have dreamed that eight months later the world would be engulfed in a global pandemic because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).1Jerry Ireland and Michelle Raven, eds. Practicing Hope: Missions and Global Crises. Evangelical Missiological Society, 2020, xiii.

Overview of book

Though none of the twelve chapters address the current pandemic crisis, these papers give us much to learn and apply. The chapter titles are:

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Grief – Part 2

This is the second of two posts that explore the subject of grief in the life of a believer. Part 1 presented the hallmarks and pitfalls of grief, along with a biblical perspective of grief. This month, in Part 2, the post will present ways we can prepare ourselves for, and respond to, grief. 

Pandemic Grief

I am an introvert. Actually, I’m a flaming introvert. Which means that, though I love people and find them interesting, I really, really, like to be alone. Fortunately, I married an introvert. And though we love being together, we’re also adept at making space for one another. Thus, you can imagine my surprise when I noticed myself suffering from loneliness during the COVID-19 lockdown and subsequent work-from-home state of affairs—a situation I thought was made for introverts.

After some introspection, I realized I was missing my co-workers. Though we’ve seen each other over the Internet, I miss being with them, in person. I miss our impromptu prayer sessions. I also miss having lunch together. And I miss regularly sharing chocolate, coffee, spontaneous conversations, and laughter with them.

understanding grief

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Grief – Part 1

This is the first of two posts that explore the subject of grief in the life of a believer. Part 1 presents the hallmarks and pitfalls of grief, along with a biblical perspective of grief. Next month, in Part 2, the post will present ways we can prepare ourselves for, and respond to, grief.

Loss and Grief

It’s a stunning number: over one million deaths worldwide due to COVID-19 in 2020—with untold millions grieving the unexpected loss of a loved one.

Though loss of life is surely one of the most severe causes of grief, COVID-19 has fostered other losses, such as the loss of jobs, travel, meetings, conferences, businesses, relationships, human connections, gatherings of all kinds, ministry opportunities, and milestone celebrations. Add to this the loss of normalcy, sense of general well-being, and rampant uncertainly about the future, and we have the makings of a pandemic of grief.

As the deer pants for streams of water
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Hope from a Distance: Psalm 42 and 43

The pandemic of 2020 has brought about some new terminology such as “social distancing”, “shelter-in-place”, and “hunker down.” Additionally, travel restrictions have prevented international travel, causing missionary families to miss graduations, weddings, and funerals. Also, many churches have not been able to meet face to face due to local restrictions on size of gatherings. COVID-19 has brought a lot of turmoil into our lives. Where can we find hope from a distance?

Psalm 42 and 43

Over the past several months my thoughts have often returned to Psalm 42 and 43. The writer of these two psalms (probably composed as one) was experiencing separation from public worship for reasons we do not know. The two psalms are characterized by numerous questions and a refrain repeated in Psalm 42:5, 11 and Psalm 43:5. The two stanzas of Psalm 42 are laments and Psalm 43 turns the lament into prayer. Consequently, these two psalms provide us an example of how to move from despair to hope in God even when our questions remain unanswered. We learn to hope from a distance when God’s deliverance is not yet clearly in view.

Thankful
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Thankful

“Thankful” is my word or theme for this year 2020. What a year to be trying to intentionally put this into practice!  The end of 2019 had some hard times, struggles with family issues and things not going as I thought they would (can anyone relate??). Little did I know in the fall of 2019 that more things wouldn’t go as planned in the spring of 2020!

But God has been faithfully reminding me of this verse.

“Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thess 5:18)

He has also reminded me of my commitment to be thankful! As I train my heart and mind to give thanks, I’m recognizing day after day that God is good. I can see His hand at work in ALL things working together for good, even when sometimes the individual pieces don’t feel or look so good. This has been a journey over the last months of learning to SEE things from a different perspective.

suffering
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Follow-up: Understanding Suffering

Paul’s follow-up with the church in Corinth is the most extensive in the New Testament. It includes four letters (1 & 2 Corinthians and two we don’t have – a “previous letter” 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 and a “severe letter” 2 Corinthians 2:3,4), a visit by Timothy, two visits by Titus, and two visits by Paul over a five year period. 1Murray Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians NIGTC, 2005, 101-105. In previous posts on 1 Corinthians, I have noted the need to keep the cross central and the need to keep culture in perspective. Moving on to 2 Corinthians, we see Paul defending his apostolic ministry. His suffering and lack of polish in speaking had caused his opponents to look down on him. Therefore as Paul defends himself, he provides us with an understanding of Christian suffering and gives a model of authentic gospel ministry. This post focuses on the understanding of suffering. Then a future post will address his model of authentic gospel ministry.

Very relevant to vocational ministers

Paul Barnett comments on the relevance of 2 Corinthians for us,

Thus the greater part of his teaching about ministry stand as a model and an inspiration to subsequent generations of missionaries and pastors. His comments about ministry – that at its heart lie endurance and patience, sacrifice and service, love of the churches, fidelity to the gospel, sincerity before God, and, above all, a rejection of triumphalism with its accompanying pride – remain throughout the aeon to shape and direct the lives of the Lord’s servants. Paul’s ministry as sufferer and servant is precisely modeled on that of Jesus, and finds its legitimacy in the face of detraction and opposition for just that reason, as also must ours, if that is our calling. Thus 2 Corinthians may be bracketed with the Pastoral Letters in its applicability to the work of those whose vocation it is to serve God as his ministers. 2Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians NICNT, 1997,50.

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