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A Long-Awaited Send-Off

Written August 12, 2018.

This probably doesn't sound very "Christian" of me, but for a long time, I couldn't stand "Missionary Sunday" at church. You know, the one where a missionary tells of the amazing things they have seen God do and how God sent them to do such and such and then the church prays for them? Yeah, those. I think I might have even hated them for a season, and would leave the service to avoid the pain it stirred deep within me.

In my early twenties, I thought I was called to be a missionary (in the traditional sense of the word) to college students, along with my husband. We went through six weeks of training, worked hard on fund-raising for over a year, had countless late nights shuttling to various meetings and casting the vision we had received from the Lord. Throughout that season, we continued to offer the calling to vocational ministry back to the Lord, seeking affirmation or redirection. For the entire year, when we would ask, "Is this still it?" He would affirm our path and calling. Until He answered, "No." To both my husband and me separately. What do you mean, "no?!"

Hopefully that gives you a little glimpse into the pain and confusion I was wrestling through in the year or so that followed that "no" from the Lord. And my struggle with "Missionary Sunday."

As you are probably already thinking, or perhaps have heard, there's a common saying that we are all part of fulfilling God's mission to bring the Good News to hurting people in our hurting world, and you could argue that makes us all missionaries. Some of us are vocationally accountants, teachers, school bus drivers, people working in Corporate America, or any other job. While I agree with this and now understand so much more why God said "no" at that time to that path, that doesn't make the pain any lessened when I remember how that felt to wrestle. And learn in new, deeper, more meaningful ways that I am God's Beloved one, and that is the most important descriptor and definer of who I am. No title, vocational minister or not, will change that.

Fast-forward 10 years, and I've been working in Corporate America looking for opportunities to encourage other believers and share my faith as God leads with people in my circles. I laid the dream down a long time ago for my own "Missionary Sunday."

But my husband? He's continued his education and earned a Masters of Divinity Degree. He's done a pastoral internship, and volunteered in a variety of ways. Applied, interviewed and come up in second place for about ten years. Yet he persevered. He continued asking God, "Is this it?" just like we did with the college ministry so many years ago. I don't even know how many "no" answers we got. Or how many "yes" answers to other things, while we waited and sought His plans.

This Sunday, was our own "Missionary Sunday" at church. And it was more than I ever could have dreamed of. There were such loving, honoring, upholding, encouraging words shared, and we were able to give the glory to God as we shared parts of our journey with the church. We were prayed for by an incredible cloud of witnesses, which the Bible talks about in Hebrews 12:1, but I've never had a real picture of before. I do now. The way the sunlight poured down through the sky light, the way the Spirit moved in and through our Pastor and us as we spoke and prayed, the enormous semi-circle of support that stood around us was overwhelming in the best possible way.

And now I see what the fuss was all about. After you've been laboring and persevering and bringing every area of your life that you can think of to the Lord in prayer, surrender and sacrifice, you need to be able to share of the good that has come from your trials. You need to be prayed for, loved on and encouraged before you go on in the calling God has for your life. And I also see with new eyes, that it has nothing to do with Missionaries being any more special or qualified or called than anyone else. It's more that they serve God and His people often in different ways and different places than many of us will ever get to see or be a part of, because it's not what He has called everyone to do vocationally.

We can all be encouraged by those who bravely and honestly talk about how hard it is to persevere when on the surface, all it seems like you're hearing is "no." And how comforting it is when you're able to pause and go beneath the surface and be reminded that God's never going to let you go and not a single moment waiting or longing or questioning or wrestling or doubting will be wasted. And in fact, it may just be the very thing someone else needs to hear because of where they are at in their journey. Because with God, nothing is wasted and everything points us back to Him.

Blessings as you wait or walk with those who are waiting!


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