Dear Friends and Neighbors
Here are some thoughts that I jotted down on paper during my trip to Honduras a little over a week ago. I hope God will use them to speak to you and you will find encouragement in them.
JOY AND VICTORY OVER THE DEATH OF DISCOURAGEMENT
April 20 2017
My mind wanders this morning to a poor salesman and his wife as they discuss another day’s events. “I’ve been working for months now with Cindy, explaining to her all the qualities of the product we offer, and I thought for sure that she was going to take it,” the salesman tells his wife after a long day’s work. “But today she nearly spat in my face saying she wanted nothing to do with me or the product.” “It’s so hard when you know the product you offer is so good,” his wife added, feeling the disappointment in her husband’s voice. “You know, I’ve been doing this for four years and haven’t had one taker,” the salesman continued. “Sometimes it even crosses my mind to get a different occupation.” “But you cannot quit,” his wife encouraged; “you know how this product has saved both our lives and how many others it could save if they would just realize and accept it. Plus, our boss has been faithful to keep food on the table and even gives us unique gifts at times. Someday one person, even if only one, will realize the quality of the product and it will change their life like it has ours. Don’t be discouraged my love, we must continue on.” Many times, I feel this is us as missionaries. We know that Jesus Christ has changed our lives and could also change many others’ lives if they were only to accept Him. But when we share, we give, we love, and we care, and then seemingly see no fruit but rather rejection repeatedly, we can become discouraged. That love and passion we had for the people in the beginning may even grow a little cold. This is what I have felt happening in my heart over the past year; the tears I used to cry for my people’s souls do not flow so easily anymore. And the passion I had to tell everyone about what Jesus had done for me just does not burn as brightly anymore. At the beginning of 2017, I woke to the realization of this and fell on my face before God asking Him to fill me heart again with His love and renew my passion for my people again. It has been a process, but I feel Him beginning a work on my heart toward this. However, many days I still find joy missing. On Palm Sunday, while attending a church service in Managua, I recall the pastor just as much as mention how Jesus wept over Jerusalem and was reminded of how much I want to love like Jesus loves. But in the days that followed as I traveled to Honduras, I felt myself becoming increasingly discouraged. We visited several different ministries and missionaries that have been serving for years. Everywhere I looked I saw the same discouragement and love grown cold that I had been feeling. They still loved but because of all the disappointment, hurts, and heartbreaks, little passion remains. “So, this is it,” I thought to myself over and over again. “In the end, is this what I have to hope for? Of course it is,” I told myself. “It would be prideful to think that I will somehow be different. Besides look, I’m already struggling with it.” Great discouragement flooded over me as I believed the lies of Satan. “Nobody really understands what missionaries go through,” I thought, pitying myself. “Everyone always just wants to hear the number of people that got saved, and if that number is always zero, we are looked at as failures. Fantasized yet forgotten failures is what we are in the eyes of others,” I told myself wallowing deeper in self-pity. A fun Saturday in the mountains helped me forget a little bit of my discouragement, but deep in my heart I still carried the weight. “It’s a beautiful morning,” I told Mary and Camille as we walked to the sunrise service early Easter Sunday morning. I felt an anticipation in my heart of something good. The chilly morning air brushed across our faces as we walked up under the large spreading tree beside the pond where lawn chairs stood in rows waiting to be occupied. We found a place close to the center and waited till services started. After a few songs, the preacher, Andy Schmucker, got up and began to teach a message filled with power and the Spirit, yet simple enough for a child to understand. “El va a mander sus angeles para mover la piedra de tu corazon, y puedes vivir en victoria y gozo cada dia. – He will send His angles to roll the stone away from your heart so you can live in victory and joy every day,” Andy encouraged. Suddenly, I realized how much I had been living in fear of failing as a missionary, and how it was wrong of me to doubt that God could have victory in and through my life. I was being held in chains by my own fears. “Father, I don’t want to live in the death of discouragement and fear!” I cried. “I ask you to roll the stone away from my heart so that all the dead in me will leave and I can live in the victory You give me every day.” Andy continued, “Lazoro, Lazoro, ven fuera, no nesesitas estar muerto, tu puedes ser vivo hoy.” Lazarus, Lazarus, (Sarah, Sarah) come forth from the grave, you don’t need to be dead, you can live today!” Revelation 1:17-18 says “Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One, I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! I hold the keys to death and Hades.” I can love because He is still loving. I do not have to fear failure as a missionary, because Jesus is risen; I can live in the joy of that victory in me today! Every day I can wake up with joy because I know I will have victory in Christ that day. Every day I have to make a choice; “Lord help my choice be You today and every day.” Life as a missionary is hard! Not because there is no electricity or because we have to do our laundry by hand. Not because we use an outhouse or there is no air-conditioner. Not even just because we are away from everything we have ever known, but simply because rejection is hard, especially when you love someone so much. The realization that many souls depend on the choices you make every day is quite overwhelming. In your mind, you feel like you are all alone, yet the entire world is watching you to see whether you will succeed at a job only the Holy Spirit can really do. Or maybe you feel that you must reach some sort of standard of the people supporting you. These are some of the reasons why being a missionary is so hard. If you know a missionary or of a missionary, please pray for them. Even when you do not hear from them for a while or do not see any updates, they are probably really busy or struggling and do not even know what to tell people. That is when they really need your prayers. Pray that they would be able to continue loving, and that they would find victory and joy in Christ every day. Pray that they would be able to forgive the ones that come against them day after day and that they would remain humble servants in the face of great trial. Pray for each day a renewed passion and eyes focused on Jesus rather than the rejection and results. Pray for the hearts of the people they are serving; a change of heart is work done only by the Holy Spirit, not the missionary. If you know a missionary, prayerfully consider visiting them and encouraging them. Let them know you are praying for them, they may feel alone. Let them know you are not judging them by results, but encourage them to continue loving even when it is hard. If you meet a missionary, pray over them, it empowers them! If you know a missionary, let them know that they are loved and appreciated! And please pray for your missionaries faithfully, they need it more than you know.
May God bless and keep you.
Your Sister in Christ, Sarah Lee