The Song that Made Them Stand

by Laura Parker on December 14, 2012

Generations collide on the mission field today, like they do all over the world, I guess. The differences in the ways we view the world, the way we do life, the way we engage in other cultures can be leagues apart from those 25 years older, or younger, than ourselves. And oftentimes an error the younger crowd makes is in a sweeping dismissal of the wisdom and experience of those who’ve walked with Christ for decades. The following story is one I remember during my first year overseas in SE Asia. It’s a reminder to me still, as it was that morning, of the legacy so many seasoned missionaries are leaving behind them. 

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Today I had the gift of watching what brought the Sunday crowd to its feet.

And it wasn’t the praise chorus that I had sung at InterVarsity in college, now sung by a group of expats on foreign soil. And it wasn’t the excellent sermon on the faith of Abraham.  It wasn’t the song about God’s beauty or the one about our need to worship him.

It was a hymn– an old tune my own mama used to sing to us and one we’d sung in the church-of-my-roots in North Carolina.  It’s a song largely forgotten by the post-modernish church culture Matt and I gravitate towards; its the kind of song with 16 verses and words that remind you of Old England.

This morning, though, I remembered the goodness of those who’ve gone before, because when the first notes of Great is Thy Faithfulness began to play, the seasoned warriors rose to their feet–

unprompted, spontaneous, unified.

I looked around as these veterans of the mission field declared to God, together, “All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided,”

and I cried for the power of it.

Because these older, wiser souls had left home and family before the convenience of Skype and email.  These men and women have hacked out a life overseas, and have stuck– for years, not just months.  They have lived in the realjungles and have said many more goodbyes than these lips have uttered.  They have been weathered by the winds and fires of a life-laid-down and have tasted Stranger over, and over, and over again.

I felt like I was a child among giants.

And I was reminded, by the simultaneous rising, that the song that made them stand,

is a Truth that has enable them to.

“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God My Father.

There is no shadow of turning with Thee.

Thou Changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not.

As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy Faithfulness, Great is Thy faithfulness.

Morning by morning, New mercies I see.

All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”

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What wisdom have you gained from a seasoned missionary? Stories to share?

– Laura Parker, Former aid worker in SE Asia

blog: LauraParkerBlog  twitter: @LauraParkerBlog  work: TheExodusRoad

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About Laura Parker

Living on three continents and moving 15 times in 15 years of marriage, Laura is no stranger to transition. Recently living in SE Asia with her family, Laura now serves as the VP of a counter-trafficking organization which her husband began, The Exodus Road. Laura is the co-founder and editor here at A Life Overseas and writes at her blog, http://www.LauraParkerWrites.com.
  • A group prayed for us before we left the US. Someone spontaneously started singing that song. Two years later that person and his wife were shot and killed in a neighboring country. That’s really heavy, I know! But the song and the realities sobered and strengthened me early on. I think those are things I continue to learn from those who have been out longer – soberness and strength, with a singing, residing joy alongside.

    • Wow. What a story, Rachel.

      What a message for them to begin on, and what a message left behind.

      Thanks for sharing. Liked that “soberness and strength and residing joy”– oh that I would learn those things.

  • We’d finished our 15 mos in French language study when we met a single gal who’d already spent a term in Niger, learned a tribal language but was returning for a year of French to help with the certain aspects of her ministry. Young mom… taking 4 kids to this place, I asked her if she liked living in Niger. She stopped and thought about her response and then said, “No, not really. But I don’t consider that a good reason not to go back to the work God has for me there.” I’ve never forgotten those words and in fact, God has used them to encourage me and to help me kneeling faithful here when all I’ve wanted to do is pack up and fly the coop.

    Her honesty and willingness to admit that it was hard and yet her decided faithfulness to the call God had placed in her heart – I still get tears in my eyes when I think back, remembering that moment and its significance in my life.

    • So good that you heard this early on. You don’t have to ‘like’ it. You might, great! But if not, you can still be faithful.

    • Oh, that is such a great story! I love that she was honest and didn’t pretend she loved it. This is so true . . . we are not called to be comfortable or love the ease of life, we are called to obedience and service . . . and by nature, often, that is the stuff of sacrifice.

      Love this. Thanks for sharing, Richelle.

  • When we arrived at our little colonial mission post on the base of an indigenous reservation, we learned quickly about the two missionary families already living in the area. Sons of a missionary who brought his family to this jungle 40 years ago. Sons who married and stayed. A father who learned the native language, translated the word of God into it, and sons who recorded that onto audio for a people who mostly do not know how to read their own language. Every day that I’ve wanted to run home because the lights had been out for three days and the river was rising dangerously close to our house or the bus ride made me sick or there was no bread in town because the roads were blocked from rains….I have thought of these men and their childhood. And then I am reminded that if we are only missionaries when we like it and when it is good, we rob our God of His chance to make a miracle of His grace in us. And it is that miracle, that takes our weakness and makes it string, that will draw the hearts of our brothers and sisters to Him.

    • Isn’t that a beautiful thing– to follow in the footsteps of others who have really hacked out a life in really hard circumstances. Inspirational on so many levels. And I love that you said that our struggling gives God greater opportunity for miracle.

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