A Police Story

I had an experience a few weeks ago, my police story, if you will. Among overseas workers, it’s one I could wear like a badge – because many of us have them, don’t we?

Without going into the specifics, I was stopped by a traffic officer, unfairly ticketed, and in the process, felt bullied and vulnerable. Very vulnerable.

After my husband and I climbed back into our car (with him now in the driver’s seat) and assuaged our children’s fears, tears started to roll down my cheeks. He quickly rerouted us from our way to church, correctly realizing that we were far too late anyway.

As my husband tried to comfort me, my mind raced. Why was I so upset? Was it the injustice of it all? Was it the bullying? The condescending way he spoke to me, or rather, to my husband about me? It’s okay, my husband said, this was a one in a thousand type situation, don’t worry about it. It won’t happen again!

It sure did not feel okay to me. It did not matter to me how unusual or rare this situation was, I just did not want to feel this way.

Are they going to arrest you? One of my children cried, in the car, as the officer beckoned me to step out and come over to him. No, I scoffed. At least, I don’t think so? I thought. What would I do here if he tried?

As the familiar scenes of our southern African town flashed by outside my window, I identified the root of what I was experiencing: vulnerability. This was not the vulnerability that I have practiced and prided myself on practicing: the honest sharing of my life and heart with those around me. It was not the vulnerability that meant willingness to show emotion or to allow weakness to be seen; I’m good with that kind of vulnerability.

This experience of vulnerability was the primary definition in all the major dictionaries: capable of being physically or emotionally wounded, exposed to the possibility being attacked or harmed. Ah yes, I most definitely felt exposed, keenly aware of the possibility of being harmed, either at that moment or a future moment when my husband may not be with me.

This was not the first moment I have ever felt this kind of vulnerability. Having lived in various countries other than my passport country for ten years, I am ever aware of the reality of being a foreigner, and a woman, in some difficult places. Of course, many of us have experienced the possibility of being attacked even in our home countries or have been in actuality.

But it was my freshest experience of this kind of vulnerability, and with my children as collateral in the car. For the next couple of days, I wrestled with feeling weak and defenseless, tears always close to the surface. I replayed the scenario, wondering how I should have been more assertive. I imagined future scenarios, making mental plans for the safety of my children and myself. But mostly, I shook my fist directly at the man who had threatened me and indirectly at God — until he spoke gently to my heart.

Maybe you have realized the obvious beauty in this story sooner than I had, but it finally hit me: this was the type of vulnerable that Jesus was. In his incarnation, in choosing to live and willingly suffer on earth, he subjected himself not only to the possibility of being harmed, but the actuality of it.

In my willingness to stay and live and work in a place where I am more prone to experiencing the potential of being wounded, I am identifying with Christ. He knows what it is to leave his home and to place himself in harm’s way – completely, fully. He experienced bullying and condescension, and the ultimate earthly wounding, death.

What was it that motivated him to such sacrifice? Love. The very love of Christ, which transcends height and depth and all earthly constraints, is what compelled him to offer himself so wholly, to subject himself to the ultimate worst of evil on this earth. So we, moved by the love of Christ, strengthened and carried by him, can offer our meager selves as we live and love in the places we find ourselves.

As tears streamed down my cheeks, I offered myself freshly to Christ, in this place he has brought us – my husband, myself, my children. Is it easy? No. Is it worthwhile, and good? Yes. Is he with us throughout it all? Always.

I hope I will not have another police story, but who knows? We still pray for safety and protection, and we seek to live wisely as strangers in this land. But we remember that Christ is our security. And we are grateful to walk in the footsteps of our Savior, through all the hills and valleys, knowing he has gone before us in perfect love.

Can Faith and Fear Exist at the Same Time?

by Rebecca Hopkins

Anna Hampton and her husband Neal lived and worked for nearly 20 years in war-torn Islamic countries, including 10 years in Afghanistan, where they started raising their three children. She’s a mom, risk specialist, and member care worker who now trains workers in risk management, fear, and courage from a Christian perspective.

She’s just published her latest book, Facing Fear: The Journey to Mature Courage in Risk and Persecution, as a follow-up book to her first, Facing Danger: A Guide Through Risk. Her latest book delves into the practicality of fear in the context of witness risk—the risks that both local believers and global workers face. She offers tools that work in a variety of risky contexts.

I’m thankful for the chance to sit down and chat with her.

Tell me the differences in your two books.

My first book, Facing Danger is about a theology of risk. What does that look like functionally? How do we do risk assessment? That leads us to know how to mitigate or manage it. It’s very practical.

The Facing Fear book asks, “How do we be shrewd as a serpent?” Facing Fear is a better pre-field book because we can deal with our fears before we go, and we can be trained in situational awareness. The book can be used as a resource — it doesn’t have to be read straight through. Instead, you can turn to the chapter you feel you need right now.

There’s so much in your Facing Fear book. I felt like I could take one chapter and just spend a month thinking through it, talking through it, doing exercises through it. You’ve taken this one word, “fear” and you’ve written about all the complexities of it. Was that intentional? Did you go in knowing and having a very deep sense of, “This is really complex, we need to really dive into this?”

No. What started me on the path was an email from a team leader in Central Asia. Her team experienced an attack by extremists. One person had been killed, one person had been kidnapped, and the team had left the country and were regrouping in a border country. She wrote to me and asked, “What do I tell the team? How do we process our fears, because we’re preparing to go back in?”

What would you say to people who are planning to go in and could be killed the next day? That’s the lens through which I think and write and the way we respond pastorally to people.

But then the other thing that drives me is responses from the church. I sat through two international church sermons where they preached (too simply) on fear, and I was like, “Okay, that’s not true.” You can have faith and fear and not be in sin. So what’s the relationship? I want to know exegetically what the Bible actually says. I just started collecting research. And five years later, Facing Fear has helped me develop my thinking, although I don’t presume to have the final answer.

The church’s conversation around fear has morphed into a whole thing with COVID and responses to COVID and all that. But you are speaking to an audience who knows that, while they’re making dinner, there could literally be enemies at their gate. Tell me more about the people you are writing to.

I’m writing to Christ followers advancing Christ’s kingdom primarily in the most dangerous areas. Of 500,000 global workers, I’ve heard anywhere from 2 to 9 percent go to unreached people groups. Those areas are also often the most dangerous. Those working in these areas often don’t have much pastoral care. The front line needs support, needs a cup of cold water so they are strengthened to go another day to push forward his kingdom. That’s the heart behind my writing.

Is this going to be accessible to a nonwestern global worker?

That would be my desire. For example, a Chinese Christian may think, “This risk mitigation is a western thing, and it costs money.”

But actually, it doesn’t. The example I use is a house pastor on their way to the house church. If the Spirit tells you to go right instead of left because left takes you to the house church where the police are, but turning right means, “I don’t want you in jail today,” we’re going to turn right. But if you want me to go to jail today—because we know what happens in jail, we hear the stories of Chinese pastors in jail and how people come to Christ—then do that. Do what he’s called you to do. But it’s not an automatic thing that you have to go risk your life.

The main point is to listen closely to the still quiet whisper of the Holy Spirit and obey him. Experiencing fear in dangerous situations is normal; however, we don’t have to let it paralyze us. Without fear, courage is unnecessary. Courage is moving forward despite our fear in the next step of obedience. This message is for all Christ followers, from the west, the south, the east, and the north.

What has been missing from our conversation in missions about risk, fear, persecution, and martyrdom?

What’s been missing is a holistic response. There are not a lot of books that really address fear with practical situational awareness, our human physiological response, addressing fear management (our emotions), and with spiritual tools to learn to lean on God. Facing Fear tries to combine science and theology and emotions—a holistic response.

Unlike the majority world Church, the western Church hasn’t suffered very much, and so teaching on fear tends to stay at the surface level. We western Christians give simple answers that not only don’t help, they actually harm. This book does not give simple answers.

Additionally, there are not usually “answers” on many of the topics. For example, on the chapter on discernment and meaning, I describe what type of meaning will sustain us in danger and persecution, but to get to that point will require the reader to enter in to the journey of discerning their own meaning for their cross and suffering.

This book is a guide, not an answer key. It’s an invitation to deeper conversation about the intersection of risk, fear, and Gospel advancement in hard places. It goes beyond what we hear on a Sunday morning from the pulpit or read in pop-Christian books.

This book will challenge a simplistic binary worldview. It’s for those who want to go deeper, who want to leave the solid ground of the superficial and gain a foothold on the brink of the deep.

That’s a really good point about missionaries often being sent from more “stable” places, and so they may not have received that deep teaching on fear. They may know how to share the gospel. They’re going to learn another language or they’re going to learn how to raise support. But they don’t know how to truly enter into risk and make decisions and then recover from the trauma.

What else would you want somebody who’s considering reading this book to know about it?

Writing Facing Danger was therapeutic for me to work through our experiences in Afghanistan. But 2021, the year before I wrote Facing Fear, was probably the worst year of my life. It was an extremely painful, foundation-shaking year. I also had continued to gather so much research, I was overwhelmed by the material and needed to start writing. In January 2022, I cancelled everything in my life except what ministry trips were already scheduled, and just began writing. I wrote 10-15 hours a day.

I didn’t realize the effect of these months of writing and focus until the morning after I had turned in the manuscript to the publisher. On June 1, 2022, I stared at my blank journal page, considering how I felt, then wrote, “The storm is over.” It took me all summer to recover – I spent every day sitting on my veranda, crying and grieving. It was a storm to enter that day in and day out, and that is what the persecuted church faces every day, with very little break. By comparison, we know nothing of this type of oppression and pressure.

I appreciate you sharing the heart behind that. You suffered yourself in your own experience. But even writing this book has been an act of suffering. And entering into people’s suffering, with just a huge heart for them is really beautiful, but also hard and important.

A Life Overseas readers can get a 20% discount by using this link (or any of the links embedded throughout this interview). The discount should apply at checkout.

~~~~~~~~~~

Rebecca Hopkins (www.rebeccahopkins.org) is an Army brat, a former cross-cultural worker in Indonesia, and a freelance writer now based in Colorado. She covers missions, MKs, and spiritual abuse for publications like Christianity Today and The Roys Report. Trained as a journalist and shaped by the rich diversity of Indonesia, she loves dialogue, understanding, and truths that last past her latest address.

On Safety and Sanity

“Safe passage cannot be bought. We have no holy passport to protect us and so we venture forward, fragile maps in hand, flying our banners of courage and of hope.”

Call the Midwife, Season 6

When life feels like it is too much, and I can’t make sense of our broken world, I turn to Call the Midwife, the television series based on a midwife’s memoir of working in the East End of London. I’m only half kidding when I say that.

News on the world stage is of quarantines and evacuations because of the new coronavirus, a virus affecting world economies, social structures, and everyday living for millions of people. News in your particular area may not only be coronavirus, but also local storms and tsunamis, civil war, or other threats to your safety.

In the midst of any of these, the questions for many become what will happen next and how do we keep sane and safe?

These are both good questions. The first we have little control over. Anyone who has lived overseas for even a short time knows that there are things you have no control over. From viruses to visas, you enter a life where you are regularly asked to give up your timetable and your control. If you insist on keeping them, they will mock you during a night where you toss and turn in your bed. The reality is we don’t know what may happen next.

The second question may seem to offer a few more options, but there is much unknown there as well.

Rachel Pieh Jones, writer and longtime contributor to A Life Overseas, writes about safety in a stunning essay called “The Proper Weight of Fear.” In the essay she describes having to flee Somaliland after three expatriates were murdered at the hands of terrorists. At one point in the essay she describes questions that she and her husband were asked before leaving for Somaliland. “The second question after weren’t you afraid was were you safe? Of course we were safe. Of course we were not safe. How could we know? Nothing happens until it happens. People get shot at schools in the United States, in movie theaters, office buildings. People are diagnosed with cancer. Drunk drivers hurtle down country roads. Lightning flashes, levees break, dogs bite. Safety is a Western illusion crafted into an idol and we refused to bow.

“Of course we were safe. Of course we were not safe.” are perhaps the most honest phrases that describe a life overseas. My first memories in life are of blackouts during a war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. My parents’ had the only room in the house that did not have a window so it was safe to have the light on. We would gather and listen to the BBC World Service and drink hot cocoa, after which my mom would read to us until we fell asleep. Safe? Not safe? Who knew?

How do we keep sane and safe during coronavirus warnings, wars, evacuations, and sometimes just plain traffic that seems to disregard human life? When it comes to decisions on safety, our lives stopped resembling those of our peers a long time ago; even so there are times when events happen that urge us to think more seriously about where we live and and weigh the inherent risk in staying or leaving.

Here are a few things that may help:

Start with the Psalms. If ever there was a model of crying out to God in times of despair and in times of hope, it is in the Psalms of David. They offer the full spectrum of feelings and responses to life and death situations. Reading these regularly is a good practice. You are not alone. You have never been alone. CS Lewis says “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.” The Psalms are a comforting reminder of that truth.

Connect with those you trust and those who can help you work through your feelings and decisions. You may want to reach out to your parents or other family members in your passport country, but you know that their worry will cause you great stress and make you second guess your decisions. As much as you love them, they may not be the best people with whom to review your options. Pick the people that you share with wisely. Make sure that they can walk you through your decision making without passing on their own fear over a situation that they may not fully understand.

Keep as regular a routine as you can. Whether you have young children or older teenagers, keeping a routine is critical. Particularly at bedtime so that everyone can get a good sleep. Family meals (even when food may be rationed), bedtime stories, gathering together for games is critically important during times of uncertainty and crisis. Keep those routines going throughout the time of crisis.

Be careful of the amount of news you discuss in front of your children. Our world is over saturated with news and information. It makes people miles away from a crisis afraid, let alone you who are directly affected. Discuss the news in age appropriate ways with your kids. With older children, answer their questions with concrete information. Don’t have the news going nonstop on either a radio, the television, or your phone. It will not keep you sane – it will make you crazy. Keeping current on information is important, but there are ways to do it that preserve your sanity.

Policies are your friends. If your organization has a policy, then trust that it was made for a reason. Let it be your friend. Let it guide your decisions. I say this to health organization supervisors all the time. “Let policies be your friend.” They don’t exist to be mean and arbitrary, but to guide and protect when you may not have the strength to make the decision on your own. You may disagree vehemently with the policy, but policies are often made to keep people sane and safe for the long term, not to burn them out in the short term. Rachel and her husband Tom did not want to leave Somaliland when they had to leave. They had only been there a year, and their lives were turned sideways. But they trusted a policy, and they left. It was the right decision.

Don’t make decisions out of fear. Fear is not good currency. It will bankrupt you quicker than you can imagine. Make decisions based on reality and with regard to your organization’s policies, not based on fear of the “what ifs.”

End with the Psalms. Start with the Psalms and end with the Psalms. They are good bookends. They keep all of life together in a clear image of human struggle and response.

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me. – Psalm 13, ESV

I don’t know what is going on in your world. I don’t know what your struggles are, what threats may assault you from without and within. What I do know is that you are infinitely precious to God on this life journey. I offer these words of traveling mercy from my friend Robynn:

When the ride gets turbulent, when oxygen masks dangle in front of us, reassure us of your nearness and help us to breathe. Thank you that you travel with us. Thank you that you promise to meet us at baggage claim. Thank you for the hope of our Final Destination. But until then, we ask for your traveling mercies.Christ in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Robynn Bliss

May you venture forward, flying your banner of courage and of hope.

10 Dangerous Things for Kids and One True Danger, A Quiz

(I wrote this a long time ago but never hit “publish.” Two of my three kids are now adults, which slightly changes my personal context. But, the essay still stands, a little encouragement for expats as we face life in sometimes challenging locations.)

“You’re Much More Likely to Be Killed By Brain-Eating Parasites, Texting While Driving, Toddlers, Lightning, Falling Out of Bed, Alcoholism, Food Poisoning, Choking On Food, a Financial Crash, Obesity, Medical Errors or “Autoerotic Asphyxiation” than by Terrorists.” (washingtonsblog)

A quiz:

  1. Are Americans more at risk of dying by terrorist or dying by an appliance falling on us?

Death by appliance.

  1. Is a predator more likely to attack a child walking home from the playground alone or to attack a child playing in the home?

Child playing at home.

  1. Does a child face more of a health risk while climbing a tree or while staring at an iPad?

Staring at an iPad.

  1. Are more kids injured by sledding or by television sets?

Television sets.

10,000 kids went to the ER in 2012 because of sledding accidents.

26,000 kids went to the ER because of television set injuries.

  1. Are kids more at risk while walking home from school or while riding in a car?

Riding in the car.

  1. Is a kid more likely to be kidnapped and killed by a stranger or struck by lightening?

Struck by lightening.

  1. Do more children die at homes with a swimming pool or a gun?

Swimming pool.

  1. Are parents more likely to be afraid of the house with the swimming pool or the gun?

The house with the gun.

  1. True or false: The five most likely things to cause injuries to kids are: kidnapping, terrorists, school shooters, dangerous strangers, and drugs.

False. Those are the five things parents are most worried about.

The five things most likely to cause injury to kids are: car accidents, homicide (by someone they know), child abuse, suicide, and drowning.

We fear the dramatic, the unexpected, the unknown, the stories that make news headlines, and the events that are out of our control. If anything, we should fear the every day, the mundane, the average, the things that are so commonplace they don’t make the nightly news. To be clear, I’m not encouraging us to be afraid of anything, just saying we have our ideas mixed up.

According to the CDC, the least safe thing we can do with our kids is drive them anywhere. And, according to Warwick Cairns, author of How to Live Dangerously, if we wanted our child to be kidnapped, it might happen if we left them on a street corner for 750,000 hours. That is 31,500 days or 85.6 years. But if we want them to be in a car accident, all we have to do is drive them around for 18 years, which we all do.

I don’t think parents can ever entirely get rid of the fear of something happening to our children. I’m sure even my own parents, 40 years after my birth, worry about me. But we can stop using our fears to constrict our children and we can stop using our fears to construct a false sense of security.

We need to refuse to live in the world of ‘what if.’ Living in that world is what is actually dangerous for our children. It is dangerous to model fear as the guiding force in our lives. Dangerous to not engage in the world as it is, broken as it is.

We can live with an expansive, wild love that is stronger than our fear. We can train our kids to think creatively, act decisively, and to understand the world around them. We can model courage and resiliency.  We can demonstrate faith.

I don’t want to raise children who are afraid but rather children who are engaged, courageous, and who know that life will not be perfect or risk-free. I want to teach them that yes, something bad might happen to us, and when or if it does, we will walk through it together to find hope and healing. Because that is the reality.

I can’t protect them every second, even if I wanted to or tried. I am not in control and pretending I am leaves all of us unprepared for pain. And that is what would be dangerous for my kids.

How do you face your fears and those of your family?

Living Overseas and Fear: Learning to Banish Love’s Twin

Last week, while my husband was away all week, our three-year-old came down with a high fever right around dinner time. I dosed him up with tylenol, prayed it wasn’t dengue fever (which is showing up here in Port Vila right now with alarming frequency) and put him to bed with me.

Six hours later he sat up in the dark and vomited everywhere. His fever was through the roof. I sat on the tiles that nightwith him in my arms. He was shaking and I was feeding him tiny sips of juice and listening to the tropical deluge pound down outside.

And, then, there was an earthquake.

In that moment I thought back to a essay called Banishing Love’s Twin that I wrote seven years ago now, right after I got married. I wrestled with these issues around love and fear then. I still struggle with them now, although I do dare to hope that I’ve made some progress.

Everyone alive wrestles with this dynamic duo of love and fear, I think. But I have found that living overseas compels me to confront these issues more than I may otherwise have to. So I thought you fellow #lifeoverseasers might get something out of this piece, too. 

(And for those of you who are wondering, Alex probably did not have dengue it turns out, “just” a 3-day stomach flu).

Last week, right after my boss had asked me whether I’d be willing to go to Pakistan this summer if need be and I’d said yes, the latest Humanitarian Policy Group report on providing aid in insecure environments crossed my desk.

It made for sobering reading.

The relative rates of attacks upon aid workers has increased more than 60 percent in the last three years, with a particular upswing in kidnapping, which has increased by more than 350 percent. The most dangerous location for aid workers remains the road, with vehicle-based attacks by far the most common context for violence. And the 2008 fatality rate for international aid workers exceeded that of U.N. peacekeepers.

On the bright side — if you can call it that — this massive spike in violence appears to be mostly driven by incidents in just a handful of countries. Namely Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Chad, Iraq and . . . Pakistan.

For me, this has brought forth yet again something that has been coming to mind much more frequently since meeting my fiancée and getting married in one delicious year-long whirlwind. Michael has brought much happiness into my life during the last 18 months. But right alongside love has come something else. Something I had not expected.

Fear.

Not fear for myself. I am the director of training for a California-based nonprofit that provides psychological support to aid workers. You run certain risks when you travel to Kenya or to South Africa, not to mention to Santa Monica on the Los Angeles freeways. When people ask me about that aspect of my work I sometimes laugh and quote Nevil Shute: “To put your life in danger from time to time breeds a saneness in dealing with day-to-day trivialities.”

Still, I know it’s possible — likely even — that I only have the luxury of this flippancy because so far I have escaped without being on the wrong end of a carjacking, kidnapping or serious accident. At some deeper level I probably still believe that it won’t happen to me.

The problem with that (or one of them, anyway) is that I seem to be incapable of applying that same casual tolerance to risks Michael runs. When it comes to him, I have no comforting illusion of invulnerability. After my stints as a young forensic psychologist working in a prison and with the police, and what I’ve seen since of trauma and aid work, I know full well that it could happen to him. And when I really think about it, this terrifies me in a way I’ve never felt before.

Imaginary trails

I’ve never thought of myself as someone who’s particularly prone to catastrophizing — taking a passing fear and following it doggedly until it dead-ends in a worst-case scenario. But lately I’ve found myself wandering down those grim, imaginary rabbit trails more and more often. The other day I was stopped at a red light when a car coming the other way lost control, skidded across the intersection, jumped the curb and took the top off a fire hydrant. As water sheeted 20 feet into the air it took only two seconds for my brain to leapfrog from: “Is that woman okay?” to “What if someone had been standing on that corner?” to “What if that someone had been Mike?”

I don’t even need that sort of drama to push me down these mental paths. While Mike was away completing a humanitarian project evaluation in Papua New Guinea last month, I found myself at odd moments toying with the idea of him being mugged and knifed in Port Moresby. While driving to the airport to pick him up, I thought of plane crashes. It’s as if, without really wanting to, my mind is trying these thoughts on for size, pushing me to answer the questions that automatically follow.

What would you do then, huh? How would you cope?

Perhaps I keep circling in this direction because I just don’t know how I would come back from a blow like that.

Logically, I know people do. If one of these awful scenarios were to unfold, I know there’s a high likelihood I would eventually recover to be a walking, talking, functioning member of society. I would probably be able to smile and mean it. At some point, I would likely even be happy again. But when it comes to this topic and these musings, logic fails completely to breathe life into my imagination. While I can picture the possibility of pain all too well, I can’t really see how I’d get past it.

As I’ve started to track these depressing mental calisthenics during the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed something else too. A fragment of a single Bible verse is usually trailing quietly on the heels of the bleak visions, towing its own set of questions in its wake.

Perfect love casts out fear.

I’d never thought much about this verse before, except to wonder why it was fear that is driven out and not hatred or apathy. After all, I’ve heard it said that the true opposite of love isn’t the passionate intensity of hate at all but the emptiness of indifference. But lately I’ve been seeing it differently. Perhaps it’s inevitable that the more you value something the more acutely you realize what its loss could cost you — that as love grows so does fear. Perhaps the point of the verse has never been about banishing love’s antithesis, but love’s twin.

A growing love

Thinking through a co-dependent link between love and fear kept me occupied for a couple of weeks before I found myself confronted by the next issue raised by those five words: What does perfect love look like then? If love and fear truly are symbiotic, logic suggests that perfect love would simply breed perfect fear, not cast it out.

When I finally went to the source, I learned that the word behind the translation of “perfect” in this verse from 1 John is a form of telios, which doesn’t mean “flawless” but “fulfilling its purpose” or “becoming complete.” Telios, in turn, is derived from telos, which means, “to set out for a definite point or goal” or “the point aimed at as a limit.”

When I put this all together then, what I think John was aiming at with “perfect love” is a rooted and growing love. A love that is firmly anchored in some sort of external, defined and stable point, but ever-transforming into a greater and more expansive state of completeness at the same time.

All of which then begs the question — what is that external, defined, stable point or outer limit?

No one gets any prizes for guessing what John’s answer to that question is.

God. And in a circinate metaphor that is truly mind-boggling if you dwell on it for any length of time, John also asserts at least twice in that same chapter that God is love.

This doesn’t sit entirely comfortably with me, to be honest. Independent to a fault, I like sorting out my issues by myself and on my own terms. The last thorough personality profile I took bluntly informed me that I had “a defiant nature.” When, in the middle of our wedding ceremony, I stumbled on the vows Mike and I had memorized, I didn’t look to the one I was in the middle of promising to spend the rest of my life loving and wait to be prompted — I narrowed my eyes and said, “Don’t help me!” I don’t want to need a God the way a 5-year-old needs a light at night to soothe away fears of shadows in the closet, even if that God is the very embodiment of love.

Without God in my equation, however, love and fear seem locked in a cyclical struggle for dominance that my love, in its own strength, just can’t win. As long as I’m only looking at Mike, my love will always be shadowed by the knowledge of coming loss. That loss might not come this year, or next, or for 40 years. But it will come, that’s inevitable. In this chaotic and uncertain world it’s only in the context of a purpose other than just my own and a love that overshadows and outstrips mine that I stand a real chance of untangling the two and freeing the energy to nurture love without it also nourishing fear.

To savor the mystery

Many years ago John sketched out his take on this dynamic in 13 simple words — words that I hope, over time, will come to my mind as readily and vividly as the catastrophic possibilities I am so talented at conjuring.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

Because whenever I sit with the mystery those words represent, when I really savor them, I breathe a bit more deeply. And as my lungs fill with air, pushing against my ribs from the inside, I sense my love expanding, too — growing just a tiny bit more perfect, making room for peace, edging fear out just a little further.

Fear will never leave permanently, I’d guess. Casting it out will be something that happens in fits and starts. In steps forward and steps backward. In a rhythmic, intentional orientation and reorientation that I hope will over time get both easier and faster.

Mike gives me reason to believe that that’s the case, anyway. I’m perfectly confident that he loves me, so he’s either currently much more practiced than I am when it comes to waging war on fear or he hasn’t read the HPG Report yet, because when I told him I may be headed to Pakistan this summer all I got was, “Oh.”

There was a very long pause, and then bright hope.

“If that’s not the month I have to go to Sudan, can I come?”

[Originally published as “A Love That Scares Me” by Notre Dame Magazine.]

Can God Save Your Life?

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By Liz Campbell

“We run the place ya know” said the gunman, casually revealing his semi-automatic weapon with extended magazine. The midnight air, pregnant with tension and the smell of weed, wrapped darkness around both him and my husband on the deserted road leading down into Majesty Gardens.[1]

David drew a breathe, “Actually, God runs the place,” he said calmly, his eyes carefully reading every flicker on the gunman’s face.  As he spoke, two more men emerged from the shadows, one close, one farther off.

“So can God save your life?” the gunman glared menacingly, drawing closer.

“Yes” David said, meeting his gaze, “He can.”

Did he believe those words in that moment? He said he did, but did I, soon after when he arrived home to tell me what had happened?

As the words left his mouth, another car turned into the alleyway further ahead, its headlights draping light over the darkness. The bright light seemed to confuse the gunman. He didn’t know where to look, and he and his friends grew visibly agitated.

“Squeeze it now man, squeeze it,” urged one of his friends. But the gunman, confused by the lights like an animal in a headlight glare, had already moved his pistol from my husband to the oncoming car.

Seeing his opportunity, my husband calmly put the engine into gear and drove off past the oncoming car. It was only after he was around the corner and on the open stretch that he began to shake all over. When he returned home to our one room flat in Trenchtown and told me his news, calm had almost returned to his body.

But in me the storms were just beginning.

I had left my family half a planet away and come here to work alongside my new husband in Trenchtown, Jamaica. What if Jesus didn’t have our backs? That night led me on a long journey with God, trying to find reassurance against a backdrop of violence, crime and fear.

Ten years later we are still here, and I am still on this journey.

Violence has a long history and a short fuse here in Jamaica, especially in the inner city communities where we work. Despite a population of just 2.9 million people, Jamaica has one of the highest (per capita) homicide rates in the world. In 2015 alone there were 1,205 murders (that’s more than three each day), 1069 shootings, 589 aggravated assaults, 577 rapes, 1,904 robberies and 1,777 break-ins[2]. In 2013 there were ten thousand cases of reported child abuse[3].

My husband David has been caught in crossfire twice (once with an armoured vehicle), held up at gunpoint twice, witnessed a beheading, carried victims of abduction and rape to counsellors, lost friends to violence, spoken at the funerals of the youth he was working with, and counselled gunmen against retaliation in heated situations. “Can God save your life?” is a very real question for us as a family and one that I have faced again and again over the last ten years.

I recently asked my husband this question again, and without hesitation his emphatic answer was “Yes!” He can say this so confidently because his experience so far has proven God’s faithfulness in this area. God can save his life because He already has. We work alongside missionaries who have reported bullets “pinging” away from them as they were caught in gun fire, as though an invisible shield was protecting them. After my husband was caught in cross fire between an armoured police vehicle and gunmen one evening, a friend overheard some young men in the community saying “Bwoy, ‘dat white man must really a’serve God, because so many bullets a’fly and not even one catch ‘im!”

So, if we work for God does that mean we are invincible to human violence?

I wish I could tell you that I could confidently say that God will always protect us from everything we fear, from all pain and violence. But I can’t. It is true that He has. I and my husband and many other missionaries we know can retell many stories of Gods protection: bullets missing their target, gunmen avoided, lives saved. But it doesn’t always end this way.

In April of this year two American missionaries, Randy Wentzel and Harold Nichols, were violently murdered here in Jamaica. Despite the fact that Jamaica is in the top five nations for homicide rates in the world, their deaths shocked Jamaicans. Last year in Haiti another missionary, Roberta Edwards was shot and killed as she sat behind the wheel of her car. July this year, trainee missionaries Jamison and Kathryn Pals and their three very young children were killed in a car accident on their way to language school in preparation for the mission field.

Does this mean that somehow God let them down? Did Jesus not have their backs just as my deepest fears suspect?

The truth is actually much larger than either of these answers tell us.

God doesn’t promise to save our life. He can save our life. But the Bible does not promise safety, comfort or stressless living. What it does promise is God’s presence with us.

Daniel walked through the lions den, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego went through the furnace. God was with them, walking closely alongside them, strengthening them and encouraging them. In these cases God did save their lives; yet the prophet Isaiah was cut in two, and James was killed while Peter miraculously walked out of Jail. There were many cases of lives miraculously spared among the early Christians, but all but one of the disciples would eventually suffer a violent death.  In the first 200 years of Christianity four million Christians were killed under the Roman empire.

Had God saved just a few, only to neglect four million others?

No. In all these cases God kept his promise, the promise of His presence with us. Jesus knows what pain and suffering feels like, intimately from inside the frail shell of human existence. He has done it and when each one of us walks through white waters of any kind, he is walking with us, walking in us, walking us through, out into either every day life or eternal life.

Randy Wentzel, Harold Nichols, Roberta Edwards and the Pals family were not alone when they were taken violently from this world. Jesus was with them, there, in their last moments, walking closely alongside them, strengthening them and encouraging them just as he had been throughout every other day of their entire life and ministry. They were never alone.

The gunman’s question ‘Can God Save Your life?’ holds within it an assumption. His question assumes that life is all we have to lose and that he and his gun ultimately have power over this. This gunman and his friends lived in the reality of the darkness of this world, a choice which ultimately led to their demise less than a year after their interaction with my husband. But we live in another reality.

In that moment, when the gunman asked that question, gun in hand, David had to choose which reality he would live in. He had to choose where his eyes fell and what his heart believed. Which was more real in that moment, the barrel of a gun or the face of Jesus?

Where does real power lie? We often live, as the gunman’s words imply, feeling that our lives are the most important thing we have to lose. We feel that suffering is wrong, like Jesus somehow should prevent us ever experiencing pain or loss. Fear has a power that can easily drown out God’s voice. It is our enemy’s greatest weapon against us.

This year we have seen as never before that we are in a world rocked by violence, a world torn apart by war, pain and fear. An estimated 115-250 people a day have lost their lives in the Syrian conflict, 80 died in France under the wheels of a terrorists truck, 49 shot dead in Orlando. Teenage gunmen, terrorist rampages, racial violence, police shootings: our world is bracing for the next suicide bomber to blow themselves up for religious extremism, for someone to mow down victims in the name of prejudice and hate.

Theologian Tom Wright writes,

“The Christian Vocation is to be in prayer, in the Spirit, at the place where the world is in pain, and as we embrace that vocation, we discover it to be the way of following Christ, shaped according to his messianic vocation to the cross, with arms outstretched, holding on simultaneously to the pain of the world and the love of God.”

Jesus is no stranger to suffering. What can we say to a suffering world if we flee from suffering ourselves? Like Jesus, we are called to give our lives for love. Not in comfortable Christendom, reading books about faith, but in the gritty, messy, sometimes violent battleground of human life, living in the reality where God is King, no matter what the outcome of the battle in front of us may be. The war is already won.

Can God save your life? He has. Jesus is with us; The Son of God who laid the foundation of the universe. A gunman with a pistol looks pretty small from that perspective. No bullet will take you without God already having prepared that moment from the beginning of time to be your home-coming to Him, with Him, and in Him. Jesus is with us. He can save our life, and He can walk alongside us as we live and as we die (as He did) for love.

If we are brave, we are not brave because we presume we are invincible. We are brave because we live in a reality where God is King and Jesus is walking with us all the way.

 

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.

2 Timothy 1:7-8 New International Version – UK

 

[1] An Inner City Community of Kingston Jamaica

[2] Jamaica crime and safety report by the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council.

[3] Karyl Walker, Jamaica Observer, June 17th 2014

 

lizcampbellLiz Campbell is an Australian, married to a Brit, and living in Jamaica. Together Liz and her husband David have been working with vulnerable inner-city Jamaican children, families, and communities for the past ten years (through the mission organisation ‘Fusion’) while also homeschooling their two beautiful children. Liz’s passion is for human beings, particularly restoring hope and wholeness to broken lives and broken communities. She writes monthly about life as a human being at: seeingbreathingliving.comFurther stories, photos and information about David and Liz’s work is available at: fusionjamaica.org

When the Mission Field Comes to You

While rounding a corner on a run in the United States the other day, I came across a Muslim women clad in a headdress and robes. I could see her cower off the sidewalk a bit as this white, American man came plodding her way in middle America. You could sense her apprehension and read her thoughts of “here we go again.”

I greeted her warmly, commenting on the beautiful day. You could visibly see her relax and the tension leave her body.

I’ve been in her position before. I too have been the foreigner in a land and culture which is not my own. I can relate to wishing I could change my nationality or accent in order to blend in. I wouldn’t wear my USA soccer jersey because of the perception of my nation in South Africa.

There are many foreigners in South Africa who have a much rougher go than an American not wearing a soccer jersey.

South Africa is a land of opportunity for the rest of Africa. I have met doctors and lawyers who clean houses and wash cars to escape a corrupt government or hope for a better life.

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With immigration and refugee issues we actually have the mission field coming to us in both South Africa and the United States.

In the past, persecution of Christians caused the gospel to spread in the book of Acts. Now the persecuted and displaced are often not believers. Today, we have nations with bad presidents and horrible conditions. People are fleeing for a better life. The mission field is coming to us.

I recently learned of an Egyptian friend moving to the United States. For the first time in my life I was quite nervous to hear of someone moving to my country. I fear for the welcome she will face as a person of Middle Eastern descent even if she is a Christian.

The Bible speaks often about hospitality,  devoting 2 books to this (2/3 John) as well as making it a requirement for leadership (1 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:8).

We often define hospitality as having guests our house or making meals for our friends. The true definition is doing this to people you do not know. What does this love of strangers look like today?

Jesus told us to love God and our neighbors. In the classic parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10), the entire story is told based on the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

Who is our neighbor that we are to love? Those who look and sound just like us? The kingdom will not advance unless we go to those who hail from different places. Without bridging these divides we will merely build up our local Christian bubbles.

Hospitality is love of the stranger and those who are different than us. Perhaps instead of us going to the mission field, today the mission field is coming to us!

In the current climate, this has become a very political discussion.

Let’s lay our politics aside and have a gospel discussion about loving our neighbor, showing care for the stranger, and sharing the gospel with whoever God brings our way.

This week, let’s take a step in the direction of inclusion rather than exclusion.

  • Let’s do something kind for a stranger
  • Greet someone who looks or sounds different than us in a warm manner.
  • Be aware of our stereotypes, our words, and our thoughts to the “foreigner” in our midst
  • And most of all – let’s extend the kingdom of God.

Photo credit: Qiqi via photopin (license)

But Are You Safe?

but are you safe

ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab

Civil war

Typhoid, malaria, Ebola, cholera, tuberculosis

Airplane crashes, car accidents

Pirates

Floods, earthquakes, tsunamis

Theft

Human trafficking, kidnapping

Murder

Rape

I’m not trying to scare you, I’m simply listing the things that go on around the world that we could be afraid of and this is only a miniscule portion of all that could go wrong. And, this is simply the dramatic. What about cancer, mental health struggles, addiction…?

The other day a group of Americans asked me if I feel safe. I said, “The country where I live is pretty safe, there is very little crime. We’ve been robbed a few times but, yeah, its safe.”

They laughed and laughed, as they should have. My answer didn’t make much sense. It was also true. There is very little crime, compared to other capital cities. And, we have been robbed 18 times in 12 years, though one of those times was in Minnesota and another was in Turkey and another was in Kenya and another was in Somalia. Meaning, crime happens everywhere.

I should have said, “We’ve been robbed a few times but, yeah, I feel safe.”

Or, “I feel safe enough.”

Safe enough to live and breathe and work and buy groceries and send my daughter to school on her bike, alone. Safe enough to make friendships and settle in a home and be alone while my husband travels. Safe enough.

Until we’re not safe anymore.

Something could happen at any moment. Something could happen in the US at any moment. None of us are ever, truly, safe if by safe we mean free from the risk of anything interrupting life as we know it. On the other hand, anyone who has confidence in their eternal destination is utterly, perfectly, always safe.

So what is it? Safe or not safe?

Was Jonah safe in the belly of the whale? Was Daniel safe in the lion’s den? Was Paul safe as he faced the arena? Was Jesus safe as he carried the cross to Golgotha?

Absolutely not.

Jonah was being digested, his skin burned, eyes blinded by acid and utter darkness. Daniel was about to be devoured by beasts, and Paul too, torn limb from limb. Jesus was marching toward certain torture and death.

But were they safe?

Absolutely.

Jonah was right where God wanted him to be. Daniel was right where God wanted him to be. Paul was right where God wanted him to be. Jesus was right where God wanted him to be. They were all surrounded completely by the tender hands of a loving Father who had a plan. The plan would end in miraculous survival for Jonah and Daniel, in death for Paul, and in death and resurrection for Jesus. And all of them were safe. If safe means being where God wanted them to be. And if, when we say safe, we mean filled with the hope of eternity and resurrection no matter what happens in this life.

We are never promised freedom from pain, danger, or suffering. But we are promised that we will be held when walking through the valley of the shadow of death. And that is what safe means. This isn’t easy. So many times I wish it meant something else – no grief, no tears, no loss or heartbreak. But I don’t get to decide and so I will lean into those strong, wise hands and cry and pray and trust that He knows what is safe for me and the people I love.

Do you feel safe? Do people ask this about your life abroad? How do you respond?

I Believe, Help My Unbelief

In work, ministry, and life we all experience frequent seasons when things don’t work out quite the way we had hoped.

In missions, our internal dialogues consist of “Am I making a difference?” or “Will these things ever change?”

When we are trusting for provision, for a breakthrough in our health, or seeing a life changed, there is very fine line between losing hope or accepting the limitations of the change that will happen, all while still believing in a God who could do the unexpected.

We’ve all heard the stories where people are told to “just have faith”. I personally have seen a friend who was told her father died because of a lack of faith.

Is that the answer? More faith?

This year has brought several of these challenges to our family. Ministry disappointment, divorce of those close to us, and various health related issues.

We found ourselves wrestling with the delicate blend of serving an all-powerful God on a broken and imperfect planet. Sometimes this process results in times of throwing up your hands, wondering what is happening.

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A passage of Scripture has been in the forefront of my thoughts for a few months. It seems to reflect this very tension.

In Mark 9:14-29, Jesus heals a boy with an unclean spirit. In the dialogue which preceded the healing, Jesus asked the boy’s father how long this has been happening? The fathers respond with,

“But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

Jesus points out the key word in the father’s statement.

“IF”

“And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.”

How many times in the depths of frustration do we catch ourselves uttering “If?”

We almost feel guilty for this. Of course Jesus can do it. He is God after all.

Yet in our humanity, we utter that two letter statement of doubt, often in fear of getting our hopes up.

“If.”

Not so much if you are capable, but if….

  • You will do this for me, not just others.
  • The provision happens in my bank account, not always my neighbors’.
  • The healing we see working in our communities will find its way into our own homes.

Yes, He can,…but will He break into a broken and fallen world and touch MY situation.

The father in the story utters a phrase which is so profound.

“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

I believe…..help my unbelief.

I believe in truth, I believe in principle, I believe in the unchanging character of the one I serve.

But…

Help my unbelief, which comes with emotion, fear, doubt, and weariness

As we turn to the New Year, it is good to do two things.

Acknowledge and be honest about…

  • the fears that our ministry will never achieve all we hope,
  • the doubts that God will answer OUR prayers (not just those of others),
  • the weariness which can border on frustration, tempting us to pack it in and go home

These are areas where we cry out to God to help our unbelief.

At the same time, we need to remind ourselves of what we DO believe.

  • I believe in the unchanging character of a good God.
  • I know God is on my side and working for my benefit.
  • I trust Immanuel, God with us, is not leaving us alone in this journey.

Acknowledge the unbelief and ask for help.

Remind ourselves of the truth which forms our foundation. (Preach it in the mirror!)

Take some time as the year wraps up to reflect and reset. We all need it.

I Believe….Help My Unbelief

 

Photo by Tiago Muraro

Missions Field or Land of Opportunity?

One man’s mission field is another’s land of opportunity.

I realized this in a fresh way as I was interacting with some immigrants to South Africa from Malawi.

They were telling me about their home nation, Malawi. The common descriptions were of a lush, green, and beautiful nation which was peaceful.

They left their homeland for South Africa, also a beautiful land. But on the day I was having this conversation, we were bracing ourselves though near gale force winds blowing sand through every opening on buildings. You could hear their longing for home in their voices.

And, they remarked often how they had left safety for crime. These immigrants left home to live in shacks in an impoverished, crime ridden community.

A community which I consider to be a part of my mission field.

Why you ask?

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“There are no jobs in Malawi”

These middle class Malawians left peace and safety to become impoverished foreigners in a land which often projects xenophobia (fear of the foreigners) onto those with different passports.

All this to have a chance to work.

  • They gave up peace and relinquished better houses.
  • They chose to move far from family, often leaving behind spouses and children.

South Africa is my mission field. But to these beautiful people from Malawi, it is a land of opportunity.

One man’s nation in need of “missions” is another’s land of opportunity.

As I got to know these natives of Malawi, I found myself wondering why they chose this life. What drives educated folk to choose a downgrade in lifestyle in hopes of climbing higher in the future?

In my years in South Africa, I’ve met Zimbabwean doctors and Rwandan lawyers cleaning houses and washing cars. Often they fled political turmoil or tyrannical dictators for a crime-ridden, but governmentally stable nation.

I get this. Sad as it is, I can make sense of it.

But leaving a family in a peaceful land is harder for me to grasp.

I came away struck by the power of hope. These people left home in search of a better life.

In my nation, we call that the “American dream.”

I found myself so drawn to the hope these saints carried in their hearts.

In this time of year, Christmas, we speak often of the power of hope. Here was a tangible example of that hope.

I have hope to see transformation in South Africa which motivates me to serve here.

My friends share a similar hope that South Africa will be a land which provides their families a brighter future.

This is a lesson I do not want to forget.

One man’s mission field is another’s land of opportunity.

May God bless South Africa as well as the immigrants and refugees seeking a better life within her borders.

Photo credit: liquidnight via photopin cc

Do We Practice What We Preach?

The other week, I made a trip to the local police station to get an affidavit. In South Africa, this is the venue you head to make a document “official”.

The officer who helped me chatted with me a bit. He inquired how long I’d been in the nation and where I stayed.

Finally he asked what I do.

“I teach the Bible and train missionaries”, I responded.

The officer nodded, raising his eyebrows. He smiled shyly and glanced around. Leaning close to me he says, “I too follow the God of the Bible.”

“Oh wonderful!”, I replied.   south+african+police+service+saps+xgold+june

As the conversation progressed you could see him gaining boldness.

Finally, as I was about to leave, he  waved me closer, wanting to tell me something not all could hear.

“I am a born-again Christian.”

I must confess as I left, my first thoughts were not rejoicing or excitement.

Instead I found myself thinking,

  • “He will never last in the police force.”
  • “He is going to get chewed up and spit out.”
  • “I don’t think he will stand up to the corruption and laziness.”

I caught myself in these thoughts and had to ask a tough question.

Do I believe Christians can change nations by being in places of influence?

In South Africa, the police, the electricity and phone companies, as well as taxi drivers all have bad reputations. Allegations of corruption and laziness are synonymous with these professions.

In fact, all nations have notoriously foul or inept professions.

Be it politics, arts and entertainment (such as Hollywood), civil servants in the visa and immigration offices, road workers, Wal-mart employees, or used car salesman. These are all regular targets of our wrath and frustration.

While this is a common occurrence around the globe, I was faced with a tough question.

Do I practice what I preach?

Or perhaps, it is better said, do I believe what I say.

In the organization I work with, we espouse there is no difference between the sacred and the secular. We regularly encourage our students and people we influence to become missionaries in all areas of society.

But when faced with this in the flesh, my initial response was to foretell his imminent failure.

We want transformation in all areas, but would we encourage any of our own children, the converts we make, or our local friends and co-workers to embark on this quest?

Allen Catherine Kagina is the head of Uganda’s Revenue Authority. Yes, she is the tax lady. And she is a Christian. 2014_Allen_Catherine_Kagina

She was motivated by a desire to convert Uganda from a borrower to a giver nation. The URA has become a model public institution for developing countries.

Kagina is a sought-after speaker who regularly addresses international forums on resource management. I heard her story at Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit this past August.

I was blown away. I wonder how many people did not think she would survive in this job or would be able to resist the allure of corruption?

Do we practice what we preach?

I pray for my brother at the South African Police Service.

May he be a light.
May he stand for truth and integrity.
May he reflect the justice and mercy of God in his role.

And I pray for my heart to change.

Send Someone Else

Do you ever have days you wonder why God sent you?

You doubt in the dark what you knew in the light?
Questions about whether we are making an impact set in.
As you contemplate your next big endeavor, you feel like saying…

“Please, Not Me!”

You are in good company.

This is exactly the same response Moses had when God told him His plan of setting Israel free from slavery in Egypt.

When Moses was called, his response was less than stellar.

“Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’ (Exodus 4:1)

So God gives him some visual aids to convince the Egyptians (and Moses himself). He turned his staff to a snake and his hand leprous. God went so far as to even promise a future sign of the Nile turning to blood. All this is follows the calling at the burning bush!

What more do you need, Mo?

“They will not believe me or listen to my voice,”

Moses is the picture of reluctance.

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“But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”  (Exodus 4:10-13)

Moses reminds God of his lack of qualifications.
He lists the reasons he cannot communicate to rulers of nations.
Should the exit appear, Moses is ready to head towards it.

“Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”

God reminds Moses who is in charge.

How many times do we feel as if we can not communicate well enough for the job?
After hours and hours of language class, do we feel like God sent the wrong person?
Upon giving yet another unproductive message, do we question our ability to speak in terms which change hearts and minds?

Perhaps Moses was struggling with unworthiness or guilt from his past. He did kill a man after all.

God doesn’t give Moses an exit plan, he holds him to it.

He does provide Moses with strategies, a partner in action, and more direction in accomplishing the mission.

Feeling overwhelmed or resistant is not reason for disqualification.

Rather, it puts you in good company.

God seems to like reluctant leaders. Moses, as he walked through his resistance, became one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen, leading a million people out of slavery.

This is especially true when God is calling us to something bigger than ourselves and our own abilities.

People who would be tempted to say “send someone else”, will tend to rely on God more than an over-confident, self-reliant individual.

Reluctance in leadership or in mission is often a sign we are in the right place! It means we realize the enormity of the task.

Photo By Dominik Martin