Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Hardship

Tanks and training for missions

God can transform the most painful experiences of our childhood into preparation to bless others.  Joseph told his brothers many years after they sold him into slavery, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20).

I just finished listening to a similar story.   In The Tank Man’s Son: A Memoir, Mark Bouman shares his gut-wrenching account of pain and misery, while growing  up in rural Michigan. He was the son of an abusive man who owned a tank, and ran a gun range near his home where military weapons of various kinds were regularly (and illegally) fired.  His memories are terrifying – and at times comical – but always highly unusual. As a young boy, he suffered shrapnel wounds while helping his dad with the shooting range.  He found a huge tree root sticking through the roof of their home when their father used too much dynamite to blow up a stump.  He watched his father and his friends play war games in his backyard at night. His parents’ home was unfinished, marked by holes in the floors and broken fixtures, and situated on 11 acres of garbage and various items crushed by the tank or left to rust.  But above all else, Mark’s childhood was ruled by fear of his father’s totally unpredictable outbursts of anger and regular physical abuse.

Christ went through the crucible before us

In the preparation of his servants, God uses crucible experiences that test and purify us.   This is no less true of missionaries than of any other servants of God.   In a previous post in this blog, I looked at Scripture verses that speak of crucibles and noted some different types of crucible experiences.   I emphasized that our response to these crucible experiences is critical.  If they are to be transformative, we need to identify and extract from these difficult and often painful experiences that which God has intended that we learn from it.

How do we do that?  How do we mine crucibles? I think we need to begin by learning from Jesus.   He not only went through the crucible in order to purchase our redemption, but he shows us how to persevere and learn from these experiences.


When God prepares a person to serve him in a leadership or other significant ministry role, he often chooses to use crucibles. Crucibles are small pots used in chemistry labs in which metals or other substances are heated to a very high temperature. In the middle ages, alchemists used crucibles in their various attempts to forge gold out of base metals and various strange ingredients. But Webster also defines a crucible as a difficult test or challenge or a place or situation that forces people to change or make difficult decisions.

The Scriptures speak of the crucible as an instrument for purifying silver, but always in the context of some type of testing for the purpose of refining.

Don’t Try, Train!

This post comes from Philip Jackson, a colleague and friend of mine from Macedonia. Phil serves as the field leader and church planting team leader in the city of Skopje. Phil also runs marathons, and his enthusiasm for running has inspired me to keep running, maybe not to run marathons but at least to keep physically fit. Phil’s love for God and transparency in his walk with the Lord has encouraged me many times in my pursuit of godliness.

I recently took some time to write down the lessons that God has been teaching and re-teaching me through running and particularly through running marathons.

Embrace our marginalization?

My journal entry from Luke 6:20-26

Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

Observation: Jesus says that the marginalized are at the center of the kingdom of God, and those who are wealthy, and well established and powerful are the ones who need to be most concerned about their status in the kingdom.

Joyful acceptance of hardships

Part 5 of a series on defining success for a missionary. Part 1 demonstrated that we, like Paul, can be confident in our ministry, despite all our detractors and critics. In Part 2, we saw in 2 Corinthians that Paul repeats the phrase “commend ourselves,” to identify key criteria that he uses to demonstrate that his ministry is credible and successful. In Part 3, we explored Paul’s first criterion of successful ministry, that of clearly proclaiming the Gospel. In Part 4, we looked at the second criterion, that of seeing lives changed by God’s power through our ministry.

As I said in my last post, Paul thought he didn’t need to commend himself to the Corinthians. They knew full well what had been accomplished through his preaching in their lives and in their church. His ministry was credible in every way; in fact, it could be considered glorious (2 Cor 3:7-11)

Equipping the Corinthians to defend their apostle

Character development in the life of a missionary


SEND U is very much concerned about the development of both character and skills.  We can impart knowledge and provide ministry skill training through seminars and various types of technology, but real character formation is only possible as we humbly submit to the work of the Spirit of God in our lives.   We have a growing list of resources under “Spiritual formation” on the SEND U wiki.   But we recognize that at best, we can only seek to supplement what God is already doing in your lives through His Word and the life experiences He gives you.   

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