A few years ago, as part of our work, I travelled with a colleague to a war-torn central Asian nation. We were there to catch up with one of our overseas workers. It was my first trip to this country and it was a fascinating experience.
One day my travelling companion and I acquired the use of a driver and a van. We were on a mission. The mission was simple enough and the driver was instructed to obey our commands without question. If we said turn left he was to turn left, if we said turn around he was to do it. He complied well enough but must have thought we were nuts. Our mission was to follow God around the city, going where we felt he was directing us. God only knows where we were going to end up but we trusted him to guide us.
You see, we were trying to discern if God wanted us to uncover some areas he wanted us to work in sometime in the future. One area of concern for us was that we’d heard about some truck stops and the prolific prostitution that went on with young boys and girls. We drove around the city for what seemed like hours but didn’t find what we were looking for. In a way we felt that God’s hand was in that, that he was preventing us from finding anything but we were willing and eager to act if he did have something for us.
We read in Acts 16 that the Apostle Paul had these sorts of experiences. He believed God was in control of where he should go and the work he should do. Paul trusted God completely to guide him and, as he did so, the Holy Spirit prevented him from going to certain places but opened the door to other places.
I’ve reflected on this over the years and I’m not sure, as followers of Jesus Christ, that we always have this part of our discipleship right. In fact, I’ve noticed in recent years that we can live with a tendency to control God’s call on our lives.
For instance, I’ve often had people come to us at NZBMS proclaiming that God is calling them to serve him overseas and then proceed to tell me all their conditions surrounding that call. They are quick to make known the skills they have on offer, the amount of time they can give, and what level of involvement they are willing to maintain.
It was refreshing when one couple, who are now serving with NZBMS overseas, came and simply said, “Peter, we don’t care where you send us, we just know that we are to serve overseas with tranzsend.” That was it, no strings, no conditions, all they had was God’s call and a readiness to be obedient to that and go wherever we believed God needed them.
Older missionaries have counselled me that this is the way it used to be. People were called to serve God and were willing to go wherever we felt there was a need, not the other way round. That’s it, simple!
Over the last few months I’ve written in this column about a few of the personnel needs NZBMS has in East Asia, South Asia and South East Asia. This month I simply want to say, we need at least 15 to 20 people willing to serve God overseas without any conditions. God only knows where you’ll end up. I can give you one guarantee, however. If you’re willing to be completely obedient to God you’ll find yourself in the right place – God’s place.
Call Neil Perry, Rachel Murray or myself. We want to hear from anyone willing to trust in God to send them where his need is greatest and where you can be used most effectively to fulfil his kingdom plans.
By the way, my travelling companion and I didn’t find what we were looking for in that central Asian city but we ended up in the home of our driver for a meal. We had a wonderful time getting to know and understand another side of that amazing country, full of extraordinary people and customs.
Maybe that’s what God had planned for us all along?
• Peter Mihaere is General Director of the New Zealand Baptist Missionary Society – New Zealand Baptists