My expectations of missions training have been turned upside down. I expected this would really be a "feel good" time for us as a couple confirming our call to GO. I think I thought we would be greatly affirmed and encouraged. In reality, all of this has happened...but it has been a teeny-tiny portion of our time here.
Here are a few of the topics we have covered in the past 8 days:
Conflict Handling Styles: Assessing the way we handle conflict while recognizing the strengths and weaknesses in our own style. This was very convicting!
Communication: Beginning to take in all of the non-verbal and verbal cues in communication. Learning that our communication style in conflict can be greatly misinterpreted resulting a perceived de-valuing of the other person.
Ethnocentrism: an exaggerated tendency to think the characteristics of one's group or race superior to those of another group - both from our own culture and the one we are stepping into.
Simulation: Facing make-believe adverse, difficult situations. Walking away with the realization that there was great misunderstanding on my end due to assumptions made from context, cultural-differences, my frame of reference, my own previous experience, and expectations of others. Hoping if I were ever in the REAL situation my response would be drastically different than what it was. Ugh!
Adversity: Adversity will be experienced on the field. It is an opportunity to lean in to God. Adversity can countered by an attitude of thanksgiving. Adversity is an opportunity to grow.
Allergic Reactions to Differences: Yuck! I have negative internal and external responses to differences - personalities, conflict handling styles, cultural differences. This training has helped me to recognize and address those before they take hold and allow assumptions to be made or an "allergic reaction" to take place.
Stress Management: Not only have I been made aware of the external stressors to my body, relationships, feelings, and thoughts, but I've also been introduced to the additional silent stressors to my nervous system in a new culture: foreign words, sights, smells, stimulation. We've been given some coping mechanisms to address these before encountering burn-out or depression. Without them, the stress becomes debilitating. (In a stress test where a score of 150+ is a sign of being overstressed, most missionaries score 600-900+ their first year on the field! We must learn to cope with stress in a healthy way!)
Suspending Judgement: Wait...wait...wait for judgement. This is something I thought I did, but have been shaken to the reality that my judgements are formed far too soon.
Work Requires Rest: The Lord mandates rest. He tells us to rest knowing it is a gift from Him. Sabbath keeping, quiet time, time alone with Him are all prerequisites to a fruitful time on the mission field. Without it, statistics prove you will not make it. To be effective in ministry we must be at our best, so we must enter into a mindset which goes against the American train of thought in which we must always be busy. Without appropriate rest, we will not be sustained for the long-haul.
So, where's the good news? Didn't we sign up for the adventure, the fun, the excitement?
We signed up for the call. We signed up for whatever the Lord has in front of us. We signed up knowing it would be hard, and this training has made us realize it could be much harder than we thought. Much, much harder! But, God has called and we have said, "Yes. Lord lead our family where you will. We will go."
Tonight I feel led to pray for those serving on the field. Being a missionary is not a glamorous life. It's hard, very hard. But it is rewarding. There are glimpses of God that will never be seen any other way. The Lord does not need us to do His work, it is His work. I will pray for those who are accepting the role of being a part of His work to the ends of the earth. I will pray for the Pioneers who are literally going where no one has gone before - learning languages, building huts, living without any modern comfort. I will pray for those who have their lives on the line for the gospel. I will pray for people taking their entire families to "closed" countries living "at risk." I will pray for the underground Believers who are living for Jesus - no matter the cost - deportation, persecution, torture, death. I will pray for those holding babies covered with disease, leprosy, scabies, hydrocephalus, AIDS, etc... I will pray for those loving the unlovable, the cast-offs, the forgotten, the least of these. I will pray for those ministering to the orphaned children loving them as Jesus would. I will pray for those ministering to people taking their last breath entering eternity. I will pray for the missionaries, the workers in the harvest.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”