It's been 5 days since a group of us returned from a missionary retreat in the Dominican Republic. We had beautiful weather and smooth travel. The rooms were clean and the food was plenteous and tasty. So why am I still so tired?
We served nearly 250 missionaries from several countries and almost as many mission sending agencies. They were young and old. They were veterans and rookies. It was really a blessing to serve such committed servants of our Lord. So why am I still so tired?
Looking back over the week from my perspective I came to realize why with so many positives, I was exhausted. I spent more time on this trip than any other counseling with missionaries. Whether at a predetermined time or at random moments I was asked to counsel and pray with missionaries consistently throughout the week. What do you imagine were their greatest spiritual needs? You would think they would be concerned about difficult living conditions or Satanic attacks against themselves and their ministries. Not so. Not one story like that. They accept those things as given. What burdens them the most is not their enemies but their supposed allies. Those they work with and work for threaten to drive them from the missionary field they feel called by God to serve.
One missionary shared with me about his priest who attempted to delay his coming to the field. He spoke of his leaders mood changes and ungodly behavior and temperament. His question to me was, "How can a person who is a man of God treat people this way?"
Another missionary couple shared with me how they had been shunned by other team members when they arrived. They described the close knit group of veterans who did not include them or listen to their ideas. They were thousands of miles from their home and all alone.
A couple became very discouraged when their parents tried to talk them out of becoming missionaries. Another spoke of how angry one set of in-laws would become when they stopped at the other in-laws first on their brief visits to the U.S. Still another couple told how letters and sponsorship had ceased since the leadership of their sending church had changed.
I could share many other sad stories I heard. Where support was withdrawn or not present from those who should have been their greatest allies. However, I'll end with this one. After our last night of meeting together of singing and teaching in English. A great treat that many missionaries longed for. The Spirit was strong and the Lord was doing some great things in that room on the last night of the getaway. I was walking alone from the meeting room to the dining area when a young lady called my name from behind me. She had been waiting for several minutes for me to walk by. She looked to be no older than her mid-twenties and was on mission all alone. She told me how much the sacrifice our team had made meant to her. I thanked her and told her we received a greater blessing. She then asked me to pray for her and help her if I could. It seemed that just after the meeting she had words with her supervisor. He became angry at her and told her she should find her own way back to the airport. I assume her boss had picked her up there or had rented a car. "Can I catch one of the buses to the airport tomorrow even though I have not signed up?" she asked almost in tears. I assured her I would make it happen even if I had to pay for it myself. I then prayed for her and walked to dinner.
As I thought about the young lady's story and all the other couples I counseled with last week it has left me with a sadness that has resulted in my physical weakness. I think it is because their stories are not unique to the mission field. Most hurts I hear of and experience myself are not from the enemy; not directly anyway. They are from those who should be our allies. Those who should bring encouragement into our lives discourage us with their words and actions. Many church members leave church for the same reason missionaries leave their assignments. They aren't run off as much as they feel pushed out. They guard against attacks of the enemy just to be sucker punched by their fellow believers while their guard is down. Remember, you can only be betrayed by a friend. Just ask Jesus.
Our flesh has a tendency to elevate and protect self by de-valuing others. That is why the author of Hebrew finds it necessary to write, "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sins deceitfulness." (Hebrews 3:13)
Dear Lord, may we die to self and love each other as You have loved us.
"Come on people now smile on your brother, everybody get together. Try to love one another right now."