Tuesday, January 5, 2021

To The Missionaries

I love the missionaries. My husband and I both served missions and have many good and difficult memories as we struggled and grew into stronger people inviting others to come to Christ. Recently we had the missionaries over and my mind was drawn to my own nieces and nephew serving missions right now. As I listened to these missionaries and where they had originally been called to serve in far more exotic and exciting places than Utah, I thought of my own experience getting called on a mission.

When I put my papers in for my mission call I had a German last name which included ancestry directly from Germany. I had also taken 5 years of German. My expectations were that I would be called to Germany or a nearby European countryside or maybe even Australia (where I could meet the Man from Snowy River). The possibilities were endless. 

Then I opened my mission call: 

Tokyo, Japan

I had entirely forgotten that Asia existed on the globe when I put in my papers. I felt like Ralphy in the movie, "A Christmas Story" when he gets his Little Orphan Annie decoder pen. Licking my lips in anticipation I read my mission call - hastily trying to decipher it's words as I stuttered out the message... "T...T...Tokyo....Japan?!"

When I went to the MTC, it was grueling. Three months of a language that made no sense to me. The mission field brought more intense challenges and I often thought to myself that any other mission had to have been better than this one.

Tokyo was the mission I needed to burn away the dross inside of me. I would often see Naaman the leper in my mind's eye. Naaman was an important captain of the host of the king of Syria. He was "...a great man with his master, and honorable...he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper." (2 Kings 5:1)

Naaman's wife had a servant who told her that there was a Prophet in Samaria who could heal him. Naaman and the king of Syria worked together to petition (with tons of gold and goods) the King of Israel for their prophet to heal Naaman. When Elisha hears of Naaman's desire he says, "...let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel." (v.8)

What happens to Naaman next reminds me of what I experienced as a missionary. Full of excitement and hope (and possibly overly confident and prideful) as I went into the mission field:

9 So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.

10 And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.

11 But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.

The missed expectations of a mission happen to all missionaries! You come out in a blaze of glory on your chariot with your brand new outfits, all the glory stories from years of mission stories, perfectly styled hair, and shiny shoes! You expect your companion will like you, you expect to get called to a great place with people who will want to listen to you, you expect to baptize a lot, you expect the days to be filled with people interested in the Gospel, etc. etc.. And so when a little messenger comes out with a simple message like, "Serve" or "Forget yourself" or "Go to Texas or Florida or Utah for your mission instead of where you thought you would go" or, "Stay quarantined in your apartment more than you get face to face time"- it can be hard, just like it was for Naaman.

Oh Naaman...he's so distracted by what he thought would happen, he rides away more focused on all the places that would have been better rather than accepting the healing offered to him. He's real - and I relate to real. Naaman said: 

12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. (I often thought of all those other missions that would have been better than Tokyo!)

13 And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? (If I had been called to the most popular mission in the world, would I not be doing the same thing of preaching Christ and sacrificing my all for Him?! How much rather then, when I am called to a place I didn't want to go and the Lord promises me that I can be made clean - should I do it?)

14 Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. (Naaman surrenders 'self' for the promised healing that comes when we trust in the Lord)

With all my heart I can truly say, there was no better mission than Tokyo, Japan. I sacrificed everything to go there. Opportunities to advance my degree, spend time with family, marriage, friends, and more. When I got there I had expectations of how it would go, and none of it went the way I thought it would. I had to humble myself to 'bathe' 1. in front of family and friends as I struggled week to week, and 2. do so in what I thought was the worst river/mission. My faith was profoundly challenged as I submitted to each dip in the river which required me to strip off more of my hopes, dreams, pride, and desires until my heart was aligned with His Will, His Desires, and His Strength.

A.W. Tozer said it the very, very best:

"...Abraham possessed....sheep, camels, herds, and goods of every sort. He had also his wife and his friends, and...his son Isaac safe by his side. He had everything, but he possessed nothing.... The world said, 'Abraham is rich,' but the aged patriarch only smiled. He could not explain it, but he knew that he owned nothing, that his real treasures were inward and eternal.

"There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in the life. Because it is natural, it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is. But its outworkings are tragic.

"We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety. This is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.

"Our gifts and talents should also be turned over to Him. They should be recognized for what they are, God's loan to us....We have no more right to claim credit for special abilities than for blue eyes or strong muscles. 'For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what has thou that thou didst not receive?' (1 Corinthians 4:7).....

"The ancient curse will not go out painlessly; the tough, old miser within us will not lie down and die in obedience to our command. He must be torn out of our heart like a plant from the soil; he must be extracted in agony and blood like a tooth from the jaw. He must be expelled from our soul by violence, as Christ expelled the money changers from the temple. And we shall need to steel ourselves against his piteous begging...

“Father, I want to know Thee, but my cowardly heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival.... Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there."

Oh My Soul


Casting Crowns


1 comment:

  1. I feel your pain. I took 3 years of high school German and had a German friend who crossed over from East Berlin to West Berlin the day before they built the wall. Hans never saw his parents again. I have tremendous respect for the German people -- especially while their country was divided.

    But, my grandfather came over from Sweden with his parents when he was 2 years old. So, I wanted to go to Sweden. My bishop had a ton of old church books which I would go up to his house and read. For some reason, he also had a Swedish grammar book, which I studied. The knowledge of German helped tremendously. I am so thankful to have been sent to Sweden. It was also the first time in my life I was grateful to have bad eyesight, because this was during the Vietnam war and mission calls were restricted unless you had a 4-F draft status. So, the bishop's son with a 1-A and me with a 4-F both got our calls the same month.