Do you feel called by God to do what you are doing, right now, in the place you are doing it? Most cross cultural workers have some understanding of their calling. But in this edition of Peter’s Wife, I’d like to encourage you and maybe help you understand a little bit more about your calling.
We are among those called to belong to Jesus and to be saints. (Rom. 1:6,7) Thankfully, God empowers us to live a life worthy of our calling: being humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another, and making every effort to maintain unity. This is our calling as children of God. (Eph. 4:1-3)
So every believer has a call. But most of us living overseas believe we also have a more specific calling to service. And as we all know, serving cross culturally is no easy calling.
Our calling is not the same as our job. Our job may change many times, yet our calling does not change. Our job may be the instrument we use to carry out our calling. I have had jobs as varied as campus nurse, Bible school instructor, secretary, web developer and master, editor, counselor, etc. But the calling to encourage and help those God brings across my path has never changed.
Like our personality that stays very stable throughout our lifetime, our calling also stays very much the same. It is like our spiritual DNA. And, like personality, we may discover new aspects of it all of our lives.
We discover our calling one step at a time. All the interests we have and all the places we go and all the people we meet are like puzzle pieces in the picture of our calling. After some time we step back and take a look at the picture that is forming and say, “Ah, so that’s my calling!” It is no less amazing just because it is gradual. Everything God does has some “Wow!” factor.
All callings contain the unexpected. Let’s consider some expressions of that.
In our calling we will experience unexpected limitations. Most of us have already seen this in our lives. We were eager to get to the field only to be told we must go to Bible school, raise our support, and maybe even do a short field visit before being sent. Those were limitations. Then many of you have also had to go to language school or fulfill some type of field training before starting your permanent assignment. With new field directors, some experience additional limitations.
Most of us who live and work cross culturally for any length of time find these limitations hard at the time, but generally helpful in the long-run.
Cross cultural moms can really feel the limitations for many years. Raising our children and educating them overseas takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. For many years we may be limited in our outreach to what we can do from our homes. However, there may be no greater witness to God’s love for our neighbors than what we demonstrate in our homes with our family.
In our calling we will experience unexpected expansion. I taught the children’s Sunday School class in our church back home to six kids. That teaching became the basis for teaching 100+ African ministerial students when we went overseas. Now that’s expansion!
One of our sons had learning differences. Finding help for him, plus thousands of hours of keeping him focused, gave me a tremendous empathy for families having children with special needs. Over the years I helped to make people aware of these special needs. I was an advocate for teachers and counselors to get training to identify and help these children. Our personal experience has assisted the expansion of resources available to families with a variety of special needs.
In our calling we will experience unexpected transformation. This has been the most amazing to me. When we started in overseas service more than 30 years ago, communication was difficult. Aerograms were the best way to send and receive mail and these took about one month for a round trip. Today we have almost instantaneous communication.
Peter’s Wife was birthed about 25 years ago when workers from nearby nations came to our town to get new visas. The women were frustrated by language challenges, homeschooling their children, and isolation. I began editing a newsletter to send to these sisters and to their friends and co-workers. When the list grew to 300 women the cost for printing and postage became too high for our limited budget. Sadly, I had to quit sending the letters.
Then the internet became available to most everyone at a very small cost. Overseas workers were some of the very first to grab hold of this new technology. In 2000 I began Peter’s Wife all over again as an email newsletter. The list has grown to over 700 women who receive this encouragement and connection every month. We never could have imagined how the technological transformation could expand our means of fulfilling our calling to encourage and help all we come in contact with (even if we never get to see each other face to face).
Finally, in our calling we will experience unexpected termination. The way we express our calling will someday end. Wars and illness are just two of the ways our overseas calling may be unexpectedly terminated. There may also come a time when we can no longer physically go and do, yet our calling to care and encourage may take on a new form. We know senior servants of God who keep on doing all they can as long as they can. It may not be glamorous. But it is meaningful.
When our life on earth ends we all get to wake-up in heaven. What a wake-up call that will be! “Good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness. ” –Matt. 25:21
Let’s not despise the days of limitation, but look forward to times of expansion and transformation that help us fulfill our God-given calling.
Take a moment to look back over the days or years of your service. What has been your calling? What is the thing you feel is such an honor to do in service to your Father? That is your calling, and that’s what you will one day be rewarded for doing. Be encouraged, my sister!