Drawing on God’s compassion and grace
Posted on: 28th January 2021
Maggie Crewes has served with CMS since 1992. Her ministries in Africa, and now South East Asia, have been at the coalface of human need and desperation. She reflects on God’s sustaining grace in her long-term mission.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
How do we persevere?
My earthly father Bob was a great ‘try harder’ man. His mantra was, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ It’s a common approach to this earthly life. Is Paul wanting us to follow this path too, when he writes ‘let us not grow weary of doing good’? That it’s all about us, about our efforts? We just need to try harder, push through, lean in?
Paul is very much a ‘saved by grace’ man—a ‘try harder’ approach would seem to be the complete antithesis of his teaching and a great recipe for burnout and exhaustion.
So how do we not give up, not grow weary and stay vaguely sane? It’s good to jump back to the earlier chapters of Galatians to see that the motivation for Paul’s words to not grow weary or give up are coming from a much deeper understanding of grace. Our serving is not resourced from our own limited energy bank but from the depth of God’s compassion and grace. Of course, Satan would have us believe the former and so discourage us from relying completely on the latter.
Is this the secret? To be constantly renewed, returning to the source, being re-filled with the Spirit of Jesus, with his love and grace? This will be where he relieves our burdens, this is where he renews our strength and enables us to soar again on wings like eagles, and where we can begin another new day and not give up or give in to Satan’s attempts to discourage and undermine.
In 2020, after 28 years of serving in Africa, God opened the door for me to come to Cambodia and start all over again. My ministry here is one of reaching out to some very broken young girls—trafficked, exploited, traumatised, and needing a level of love, care and compassion that is way beyond any human resource.
Cambodian society faces many challenges. 85% of the population practice Buddhism; they fear ancestral spirits and are caught up in the depressing cycle of karma and rebirth. Add to this poverty, injustice and the continued impact of the Khmer Rouge regime. The genocide, which began in 1975, killed more than two million people, displaced many more and almost destroyed the structure of Cambodian society. How does a nation recover from such an event? Even more than four decades later, there is a reluctance to show trust and dependence, and the motivation for nearly every action is doubted.
God is challenging me yet again to not rely on my own strength. If I am to continue for the long haul then I must remain in the true vine, who is Jesus (John 15). Apart from being in Jesus, I can do nothing. It is his work.
Back in Kindergarten again
I was recently reminded that the people we work and live alongside will not remember too much about what we did. They will certainly remember how we spoke, behaved, lived out our faith. Did we display the fruit of the Spirit that Paul talks about in Galatians 5?
In many ways I feel like I am back in Kindergarten again. While this can be frustrating, I know from experience that if I am going to be used by God in this new location, then it is essential to invest time and energy to learn language and culture, to develop an understanding of the Cambodian worldview. Only with time and perseverance can there be the joy of relating and meeting people at their point of need, and taking opportunities to share the deeper things of heart and soul.
There are no shortcuts to learning, to language acquisition, to empowering others, to building trust. Are we willing to be patient, to commit to the long-haul, to persevere? In our prayers, in our supporting, in our going—and in our staying?
Being a long-term missionary means being a long-term Christian. Will you be a long-term person of prayer for mission, interceding for workers like Maggie as they share God’s gospel of grace? Click here to subscribe to regular prayer updates from Maggie or other workers.