Our confidence and willingness to keep pushing forward seems to be constantly challenged. Incidents make us question some of our decisions and actions from the past; “Was I acting arrogantly when I made that decision?” “Did I pray enough?” “Did I take enough notice of wise counsel?” “I thought my motives were good, but we’re they really mixed?” “After all you’ve experienced, with thousands praying for your grand-daughter, and then her dying, many expected you to give it all away.” “Is there any sense praying?”
Those are the kinds of questions and statements we’ve heard recently. And not just from others, we’ve asked them of ourselves. Just like our overseas colleagues do in the situations we face so often.
I think we will always ask those types of questions, and they are particularly stressful when we live, work and make decisions in another culture. In another culture, norms are often inconsistent, justice cannot be taken for granted and you are a guest.
Is it right to challenge systems and practices that do not promote justice? It’s one thing to advocate from a distance but when you’re inside it and, through your decisions and the challenges you make, you have the potential to adversely affect the lives of those near to you in those communities. Is it right to challenge their norm?
What about when the challenges you make seem to be turning to custard and the worst result seems to be inevitable? What about when, because you chose not to conform to a system that brings injustice and slavery, people have had a taste of freedom but now, those who have tasted that liberty may be forced back into slavery. That’s when you ask the questions I commenced this article with.
And the answer? It’s at times like these that we need to hear from God, through his Word and directly, through other people. It’s only the encouragement from God that can keep one going.
And God’s encouragement can come from the most ordinary of places. The man who spoke to me a few weeks ago, recounting an incident where God had told him to keep cycling and not change gear, didn’t know that he was speaking into my life directly from God. I was, at that time, being tempted to go against one of our long-held practices, change gears and pay the demanded extortion money so that I could save the jobs of 20 workers. And God says, “Do not change gear, trust me.”
Pray for our overseas staff. Pray that, as we face challenging situations, we’ll have the wisdom David showed in 1 Chronicles 14; wisdom to ask God, “What do I do in this situation, and what can I expect you to do?” And then pray that we will have the humility and courage that comes from trusting in God and enables us to act as he says.
Your staff on two fields are facing a number of situations exactly like this right now and there will be more to come, because there always are. Please pray.
• John is Managing Director of MPIL, one of the four mission entities of The New Zealand Baptist Mission Society.