A moment of clarity

At the end of 2017, Lois and Dave Freeman got an email from Niger, where they had previously worked, asking them to come and help for anything up to three months to cover for another couple going on home assignment, as they had the same skills as the couple.

“We really struggled to say yes,” Lois says, “but knew that it was from the Lord, so we agreed. We had six weeks to pack, finish work, arrange for someone to care for the farm, stock, house, etc.

“But we still struggled. Dave tried all of Jonah’s excuses, until the last weekend mowing the lawns, he ran over a large, very old, rusty nail — he heard Jesus say, ‘this is what I bore for you;  can you bear the heat and discomfort of three months in Niger for me?’ So we went, and God blessed us with a special time there, intense heat and all.”

Being called as a mission worker, it’s not just the awareness of being shoulder-tapped by God to work somewhere, often a particular ministry in a very specific location, but also the process of how we deal with such an invitation. For some the vision is clear from a young age that their future will be bound to a certain ministry setting, and their calling is a pathway that leads them there. For others there’s a struggle and the “Jonah” tactics are many: “I’ll go anywhere, Lord, except there!” “I’m too old.” “I’m too young; I need more life experience first.” “I’m bad at learning languages.” Prejudice, financial questions, family needs, fear of flying, fear of disease, fear of the unknown.

Sometimes the first influence on a later decision might be in childhood. For one of our partners, his adult decision to go to Sudan was birthed in a movie he watched as a child, Khartoum, which had a mystical impact on him long before he came know Jesus. Lewis Varley was a seven-year-old boy, watching a TV documentary about a horrendous famine in Bangladesh, that stayed with him all his life; fast forward to young adulthood, getting a flat in London, that was by chance in the middle of the largest concentration of Bangladeshi people in Europe, before he eventually headed for Bangladesh itself as a mission worker. “How does God get us where he wants us?” he asks. “It’s a bit like the Waikato Expressway being built near our home — it seems to take a long time, with many phases, lots of energy and people and noise!”

Moments of clarity can be extraordinary, goosebump kinds of revelation, perhaps being directed by the Holy Spirit in prayer times, dreams or visions. This happens much more than you might think. But equally, others have ended up in mission after a long process, rather than a sudden call, just one step after the other, each step part of God’s leading.

Dee Jones says, “Soon after I returned from Zambia in 2013, I was asked to share in a sermon that was titled Caught up into God’s purposes, and I began wondering how did I even become involved in missions in Zambia? God then gave me a picture of a river, and I saw the many characteristics a river could have, it could be swift, twisting, dividing only to join up again, or it could seem still almost brooding, motionless. And really that’s what life is like and what my journey into missions has been like.”  She had the desire to serve already, but finding the right location was a series of twists and turns.

“Don’t have limited expectations of God’s guidance,” Lynell Thomas says. “I have been called overseas five times, and each time God has guided and clearly confirmed his call differently — as differently as literally writing ‘Ethiopia’ in the clouds, to telling me, ‘If I have mercy on you, you are to have mercy on the Mursi people’.”

Usually God draws into mission work someone who has said they are willing. As a teenager I said “Yes, I’m willing,” but life intervened and, several decades later, I had studied for two different careers: journalism then art. Much later I understood that God wants even those skills in mission — and SIM and other missions had begun to understand this too — so I prayed, “Lord I’m ready to serve you overseas.” Within days a newsletter arrived from missionaries in Africa; people I had never met. I hadn’t even asked to get their newsletters! Yet as I read their plea for someone to go to a mission school in their country to teach art, it was my ‘moment of clarity’. I knew without a doubt this was God’s response to my prayer.

Perhaps you have never had a clear call to join God in his mission here at home or overseas, or even a gentle nudge. Is it because you have never told God that you are willing?

— Zoë Cromwell