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The last few blogs have hopefully given you a good idea of the region and the work we did. It has been fun to share the experience with you and reflect on all that was accomplished both in writing and in pictures. But when you work abroad, you also want to go in with an open, humble heart to let God teach and change you. Many times, stepping away from your normal routine and being in an unfamiliar place allows God to work on your heart in different ways because you are in a much more dependent environment. So, I wanted to share four thoughts from God that have challenged and encouraged me and I hope they challenge and encourage you.
Be Thankful You Can Gather at Church Openly. We couldn’t really say the word “church” in our region so we used a different term. But for the handful of local believers that are in Jubilee, it continues to be difficult to gather together despite the great need for them to be able to encourage each other. There are several understandable reasons why it is difficult to gather including potential harm, suspicion, clan politics, etc. Even the local team of workers has to be somewhat strategic as to how and when they meet together and we were privileged to be able to join them for a house fellowship one afternoon. It was special. Anyway, it really made me reflect on being thankful that I can openly participate in my local fellowship/church. That is an incredible gift and helped me better understand the writer of Hebrews when he admonishes us to not give up the habit of meeting together (Heb. 10:25). It is vital to our spiritual life and you don’t know what you have until you don’t have it. Plug in to your church, attend, serve, and grow. It is a gift.
Take Advantage of Your Ability to Speak About Christ and the Gospel Whenever and Wherever You Want. This may be one of the most powerful reflections and encouragements to me personally and hopefully to you as well. The reality is that even though the culture around us in our American context may dislike the truth of God’s word and the reality of the Gospel, it generally is still not openly hostile to it. Now, you can make the case that it is changing, but compared to many places in the world (like our location) we still have an incredible amount of religious liberty. So, what an opportunity we have to speak Christ to those around us. We should not squander this opportunity! Being in this region of the world for 10 days encouraged me to continue sharing my faith here because I saw the difficulty that can arise in a different context. We should be telling everyone around us about Jesus. There are people around me that are just as lost as those in the region we were working. The freedom and ease to speak the Gospel here should certainly not be taken for granted.
Live Differently Because Truly Living Differently Will Cause Wonder. This may seem like a no-brainer but sometimes in our context there can be very little difference how we, as christians, live versus many non-believers. So make it a point to live different. This was especially evident in our region. When the norm is to have multiple wives (and yes, we did have actual conversations about this with a few locals) and you have one wife that you love and are committed to, that begs a lot of questions. Especially when there is joy and delight in the marriage. Or, when a man is involved in the lives of his children and family, that also screams out “different” because that is not really a thing for the context in which we were working. These two examples actually crossover here. If you are married, truly love and edify your spouse and stay committed to one another. Invest in your children and talk about your kids as a delight. If you are single or married, choose to live a pure life. But here there are other ways to live differently here. It could be how you spend your time, your finances, or avoiding complaining, or purposefully sharing the good news of Jesus to those around you, etc. But the bottom line is: to be a bright light, so much hinges on how we live and that needs to be markedly different than the world around us.
Finally, Remember Those Families Living Abroad and Sacrificing So Much to Bring the Good News of Christ to the Far Edges of the World. That, for me, is one of the many joys of partnering in short term work with long term teams: the new relationships that form and the opportunity to get to know their families. When you grow these relationships and partner in their discipleship work, all of the sudden what’s going on with them and through them becomes incredibly personal to you. And it is much easier to pray, encourage, and support those that you know on a personal level having served alongside them. So, if you go abroad make the connections and commitments to support them long after you are gone. And even if you can’t go, remember your brothers and sisters laboring all around the world and lift them up to persevere in their work and intercede that God would grant them to see fruit from their labors.
Do any of these thoughts resonate with you? I would love to know which ones and why!
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