Thursday, September 7, 2017

The High Maintenance Missionary and the Forgotten Anniversary


Gaby and Katie Correa mentioned their one-year ministry anniversary recently. We were in MOT (Missionary Orientation Training) together, so I instantly thought that my anniversary was probably coming up, too. When I looked at the calendar, I realized it had come and gone.

August 15, 2016, I walked through the doors of Global Outreach and took my place in the second office on the left. I had expected to be a "digital" missionary and expand my online ministry. At the last minute, I was switched to being a prayer missionary. I didn't have any idea what I was about to do, and no one else did either. 

It didn't take me long to realize that the new prayer missionary was in desperate need of prayer. A few friends at church laughed and called me a "High Maintenance Missionary" because I constantly asked for prayer, but they prayed. The title stuck. 

The Empty Nesters at First Baptist Church in Starkville, Mississippi offered to pray for me every week. I've probably worn them out with prayer requests, but they've prayed and God's answered. Not one single prayer request has been unanswered. 

Jay White's Sunday School class join in the pray effort, and has prayed for me every week, along with Old Bethel Church, the Sisters of Strength, and numerous others. 

This year would've been impossible without their prayer support. 

I like to see a tally of work done, but I don't have time to count, so I'm leaving that to God. Here's a little summary of what He's done this year.

The Untapped Power Grid Project has connected senior adults with missionaries in the field as committed prayer partners and intercessors. We have facilities in three states and wonderful volunteer coordinators who do a marvelous job of keeping the connections fresh.

I've spoken countless times on topics ranging from prayer to outreach in the Middle East to learning to hear God's voice. (The picture above was taken on my second day at Global, when I spoke at Sherman Baptist Church.)

The in-your-place, at-your-pace study of Hosea was the first online Bible study I wrote. It was finished just about the time I joined Global. The community that formed celebrated completion of the study with an in-person evening at my home.

A few months later, the James online study was completed. (I'm currently converting it to a print format.) I don't know how many people did each study, but those online studies have had more than 5000 views. 

I spent three weeks in the Middle East and fell completely in love with the region and the people. God did huge things on that trip, and I'll be going back before long for another three-week stay.

Fellowship of Christian students meets monthly with students at the Fillmore Center during the school term, and I had the great blessing of being a part of the adult team that helped.

Groups came together for a variety of projects at our Home Office, and one of those groups packed more than 500 personal care packs. All of the packs have been delivered to people in need. 

The blog continued the steady growth it had enjoyed since it began in 2013. It has doubled again over the last year and reaches around the world.

All of that sounds like a lot of busyness, and it was. More important, though, is that God was in that work, and He gave an increase. Lives were impacted, hearts were softened and changed. People came to Jesus for the first time, they allowed Him to draw them to a deeper place, and heard his voice for the first time. 

For a while, I kept tally of the people who made commitments, but I soon realized that God wasn't in my accounting. He didn't want my numbers. He wanted my surrender. That's what I tried to give Him. 

When my neighbor, Sam, needed more care than I could give with him in his own little house, it was clear he needed to move to a place of greater care and equally clear that the place was my home. It wasn't an easy decision, but it was the right one, and God helped me do it. I don't deserve any accolades for this hard work, because I simply obeyed and moved my work to home. 

The amazing thing about taking care of Sam is that ministry has flourished. I've emailed missionaries, prayed for them, encouraged them, and recruited more prayer for them from the start, and that hasn't changed since I've been working from home. If anything, the quality of the interactions has improved. The Caregiver Chronicles, stories from the adventure of taking care of Sam, has been my most-read series, with literally thousands of views.

My life as a missionary looks nothing like I expected, though I'm not sure what would. I certainly didn't expect to end the first year at home, caring for an 87-year old neighbor who could do little for himself. I didn't expect to serve by emptying the bedside commode multiple times a day or lifting Sam by the belt to help him (sometimes very nearly drag him) from chair to bed. I didn't expect to need sitters to leave my house or to carry Sam with me everywhere I went when sitters weren't available. That's not a complaint. It's my reality.

God's done a lot this year. It's all precious, even this season of working from home and taking care of Sam. 

What I treasure the most, though, is what He's done in me. I'm learning the meaning of servanthood in a new and deeper way. It's not a way I would've chosen, but it's the path God's given me. I'm learning how valuable little acts of love are for one who has so little. I'm seeing in real time how important my attitude is as I serve. 

I'm not sure I'm excelling at the job of servanthood, but I am sure of one thing. It's driving me to my knees, and to surrender, in a new and deeper way. 

I'm quicker to ask for prayer for myself, quicker to confess my faults, quicker to admit my inadequacy. I'm less afraid...about what people think about me leaving medicine and doing this, about how my future will unfold, and how I'll make it financially without "doctor money." 

I've been awed by the generosity of the body of Christ and I've seen our partnership in a new way. 

I know, without a doubt, that none of what's been accomplished is about me. We've worked together and God has done it. All the glory, honor, and praise goes to Him. 

Thank you for loving me through this first year, for partnering with me, for praying me through, and for sharing in all the fruit God has given. 

"He must increase, but I must decrease..." John 3:30 
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Hurricane Irma: Waiting for Destruction but Praying for Peace 
If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.