I am fascinated by how God works in our lives to make us useful and productive for His kingdom. Even more so when I see how different we are in personality, temperament and background.
Our life as cross-cultural workers is full of discovery. Whether we have been doing the same thing the same way for a very long time, or never get to settle for long in one place, God wants us to depend on Him. He has many surprises for us along the way. And He knows just what it will take to enable each of us to do our part in his eternal mission.
New Attitude, New Door
Sometimes it is just a change of attitude that opens a door to much greater opportunities. I think that is what happened to Peter in Acts, Chapter 10. Peter’s attitude towards the Gentiles underwent a major transformation. When his attitude changed, he could see the new door God had opened, but not until then. Our attitude adjustments might not be that dramatic, but they can create openness on our part to new open doors.
New Hunger, New Door
Sometimes the Spirit creates a hunger in us for something more, or greater, or different. That kind of hunger is never born from human restlessness or a desire to prove our worth. It always comes from godly passion- a deep, intense, abiding desire to see God’s will accomplished in some new ways. It leads us to pray, and that in turn can lead us to a new strategy or emphasis.
Unseen Doors Become Visible
Other times the Lord opens doors we didn’t even know existed. We call them unexpected opportunities, but God had them in mind, awaiting the right moment to show us.
In all his work in our lives, God is making us the right workers for the right work. But two things never change: we each work together with God, and we each walk by faith.
Some of my readers are just starting out on their journey. Others have been in it for decades. If you are new to this adventure, you have your own story about how you got to where you are. I am sure it is just as exciting as ours. But at this point you may know what you will do, but you may not know how you will do it. As you move forward, keep your eyes, ears, and hearts open to the ways God will direct you to do what He wants you to do.
Remember to watch for the surprises God has in store for you. You might discover that there is more to your presence in your host culture than you could foresee. One friend of ours settled in a limited access country as an English teacher. But she discovered there was something unexpected awaiting her: prison ministry. She did not stop teaching English, but she did see a new dimension of fruitfulness. The same can happen with any of us when God reveals a surprise purpose for our presence.
The same is true for us. Mike and I have served God internationally for 35 years. Today we reach people in ways we never could have imagined. If you’re a veteran, like us, why not join me in thinking back and thanking God for His subtle, steady way of changing and molding you to accomplish what He had already planned for you to do. Almost certainly God will use your adventures to inspire others to start their own journey of faith.
New opportunities mean new challenges, and even new possibilities to fail. I am sure you ruined a few cakes while trying to learn to bake a perfect one. It’s like that in our callings too.
The Barrier Called Fear
Sometimes the Father wants to open wide vistas for us, but we became too afraid to try.
Mike and I had served in Nigeria for two years and in Malaysia for eight. Then we went back to the US for our sons to finish school. We were approved to base in the US and travel to Malaysia to continue our work there. We stayed stateside until our sons were graduated, working, and married. By then there was no reason for us not to return to live in Malaysia.
But I had good friends and a home in the USA. Besides, the idea of moving back to Malaysia scared me. I was just an ordinary wife and mom while we lived in Malaysia before. Then, during those years based in the US, I was only a travel partner with my husband to Malaysia. What was I going to be if we moved back without children? Would only Mike have value? Would the Malaysian churches overwork him? What would my role be, or would I even have one?
I had to surrender my fears before we could make the huge step of moving back. But when I did, God opened the windows of heaven for us. I discovered He had a wonderful home for us, both in Malaysia and in the US. I discovered new neighbors and friends. I discovered new ways to bless the people He brought across my path. He redeemed my vision of myself and has helped me succeed and grow in opportunities I could never have imagined. He will do the same for you, in his own way and time.
Rediscovering an Old Skill
Sometimes God wants us to rediscover an old skill we had laid down. Maybe we thought it wouldn’t be useful any more, or we just didn’t make the effort to develop it.
We have a Malaysian friend with a real talent for writing and drawing. She had it, but she didn’t use it for 30 years. She just could not see how that fit her understanding of ministry. When she decided it was time for a change in her life, she took some additional training and experience in short term missions. It was during this time that she revived her interest in sketching and photography. With encouragement from friends, she took an art course that resulted in a beautifully illustrated, original children’s story book. That book is touching many lives, but it could not touch one if she had left her old talents in the bottom drawer of her life.
She had a talent that God wanted to use to reach many children, but she had to take some additional training and develop it. Those first 30 years weren’t wasted. God had used some of her other abilities. But in His time, He gave her the opportunity to develop her old talents for use in new ways for His kingdom.
Something Radically New
The Lord we serve can even show us something radically new. Perhaps the world was not ready yet for God to reveal an ability He knows we have.
That happened for me in about 2002. I had sent Peter’s Wife by post for about 10 years and then, because printing and postage became too expensive, I had to lay it down. It lay dormant for almost four years until computers became common enough to begin sending it by email. Email just changed the delivery method, but not my writing work.
The big change came when I felt they should be archived somewhere so that many more women could access this information. In 2002, I began to learn to build a web site for Peter’s Wife. Over the next 15 years, as the internet has matured, I had to embrace new technology and skills to rebuild Peter’s Wife. I had to learn new information and new ways of working.
There was nothing in my training as a nurse or experience as a teacher that prepared me to build web sites. But God knew my temperament and personality. He had prepared me in ways I never could have imagined for this huge new opportunity. All He wanted from me was the willingness to gain the new skills.
What Will You Discover?
Have you asked God for a new challenge? Are you ready to give up a fear or an old concept of yourself? Are you ready to learn a new skill or take the leap to a new level?
Don’t let fear, or resentment, or lack of resources keep you from stepping out. God is waiting and knows just what needs to be done in us and in the situation to spread His kingdom.