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Love for the long haul: Checkpoint Autumn 2021

CMS worker J has served in Africa, Central Asia and South East Asia for over three decades. What three factors have sustained her in gospel ministry during this time?

Why serve long-term in another culture, or in another place? Let me suggest three considerations: God’s love, God’s call, and our response.

God’s love for the world

The apostle John says “we love God because he first loved us” (1 John 4:10). That love goes way beyond us as individuals. God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son.

In Matthew 9:36 Jesus says his people like “sheep without a shepherd”. In love, he tells his disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send workers into the field—for the harvest is plentiful and the labourers are few.

Service is costly! Jesus reinstates Peter with the command “Feed my sheep”… at the same time telling Peter that in so doing, he will die an untimely death.

God’s call to be servants in the world

Since God knows all, he knows the needs of all people. He knows where kingdom needs are greatest. If a call to serve is laid on our hearts, we should pray and work out how to be one of God’s harvesters—possibly in another place.

I serve with CMS in rural south-east Asia. Previously, I worked in the relative comfort of the country’s capital. But God touched my heart through the story of Mary’s willingness to accept a pregnancy, which challenged me greatly about aiming for comfort. So—here I am!

Responding to God

Forget self-interest, such as thinking about what might look good on a resume after cross-cultural experience. Service is costly! Jesus reinstates Peter with the command “Feed my sheep” (see John 21:15-19), at the same time telling Peter that in so doing, he will die an untimely death.

To this day believers continue to lay down their lives for Jesus. In my time in Central Asia, co-workers from other mission agencies were deliberately killed. Local believers suffered. We too will suffer as we serve alongside them.

How to be there for the long haul

How can we serve long-term? By depending on God alone, drawing strength from God alone, looking for strength from God alone, and recognising the spiritual dimension of our work.

   1. Depend on God alone

As we face challenges, God will show us what to do—whether in discerning motives, being brutally honest about our own motives, or finding ways to solve practical problems.

2. Draw strength from God alone

God gives strength to cope with long hours and hard work, intractable problems, two-thirds world issues like inconstant water and electricity supplies, all-pervasive poverty, and ill-health. We can take his yoke upon ourselves, but he takes the lion’s share of the load.

3. Look for success from God alone

God’s Spirit confirms that we are on the right track, even when achievements seem small. He gives us courage to persevere despite an apparently gloomy outlook.

4. Recognise the spiritual dimension of the work

We often work in locations where Satan, the evil one, has had his way for a long time. You may find family or co-workers getting sick for no apparent reason around local religious festivals, or when kingdom work is about to take a step forward. But God is the all-powerful one who has defeated evil. We can have peace as we ask him to overrule.

Is it worth it?

Yes! God is no person’s debtor. It is amazing to be involved in his work—to be part of what he is doing in others’ lives. That blessing includes seeing people grow over longer periods of time, delighting in his goodness.

Go

Have you felt God’s costly challenge to bring the gospel to a difficult location? Contact your local CMS branch to find out how you can serve.