Our church is reading the book Radical by David Platt. I highly recommend it. On the last page of this chapter, a woman shares why she chose to go to Guatemala for a week to minister to the people there. Her bottom-line answer was that it wasn't a passion for the Guatemalans or a heart for mission work. Simply, it was obedience to God.
I can identify with her in many ways. When Joel and I started praying about whether we were to go to West Africa for mission work, I was praying out of obedience. I did not know if I wanted to do this and if I truly was called to do this. We did talk about this even before marriage, but it was a "maybe, in the future" thing. Joel found a place where a doctor was needed on-line. We continued to pray over a year or longer. We finally made plans to visit Ghana. Our visit went well. Joel worked in the hospital and Colt and I found things to do ourselves.
We went home and continued to pray. The hospital there desperately needed help. We finally believed God had called us to go there for a period of roughly two years.
Our time there was not easy in many ways. Now, it wasn't what most people who live in 3rd world countries would call "hard." From their perspective, it was just life. Actually, compared to the majority of the people where we lived in Nalerigu, we had it so much better because we had three meals a day (though they were a bit sparse at times), a house with running water and electricity, a truck, computers and internet access, just to name a few of the luxuries we had there. Yes, in that part of the world, those listed items are luxuries.
In the spring, Joel thought it was likely time to leave Ghana before long. We just needed to hear from the Lord on when. He was also thinking that we would not go back to the mission field but would stay home in the States after that. That sure sounded good to me!
Then Joel learned of another opportunity to serve in another country in West Africa (Cameroon). When he began talking to me about this, at first I was confused and certainly not happy about this change. We both wanted to hear from the Lord, both wanted God's will. Neither of us would want to do anything the other did not want to do. We both believed the Lord would continue to call us as a couple and nothing less.
We spent several months praying and seeking the Lord. It seemed much time had passed and we still had no answer. We went to Cameroon as a family for a few days, continuing to seek the Lord. More time passed and we finally both believed we'd heard from the Lord. We believed we were to go to Cameroon for Joel to start a Christian OB/Gyn residency program for West Africans.
The easier choice would be to stay in the States-to be around family and long-time friends; to allow our children to experience organized sports, music lessons, American relationships (both with friends and family); to have easy access to a large variety of food that is healthy and easy to prepare; to have the safety and security of knowing you can call "911" in case of any emergency; and to have easy access to spiritual food in the form of Christian radio, Christian books, Bible studies, sermons in English, and well-known Christian friends.
Going back to the last page in Ch. 4 in Radical, it was not a passion for the people of West Africa that birthed this choice in me to live in West Africa. Until I went to Ghana to visit for 10 days in 2006, I did not know what the living conditions were of the people there. I did not know how they suffered for a lack of food and other basic living conditions. Seeing the poverty and great need for myself touched my heart deeply.
While living over there, did my passion greatly increase for the people? My answer is both "yes" and "no." I was growing a baby inside me while homeschooling Colt and chasing Abigail while getting food on the table-just living this precious life God has given me. Did I always appreciate the produce sellers knocking on my door and demanding I buy something from them while my daughter was trying to sleep down the hall? Not always. Were there other situations that were frustrating to me while we were there? Certainly.
But realizing these sweet people were simply trying to get a few carbohydrates in their bodies on a somewhat regular basis was very humbling. Seeing the hard work so many of these people did daily-with a smile-was humbling. People desiring to pay back their debts was humbling. The sweet, kind nature of so many was endearing.
Am I just itching to get back over to West Africa-again, both "yes" and "no." I will miss the relationships here so much. It is hard to see the changes our absence has brought to so many relationships. Life does move on for us all. Life is also much easier here in a million ways.
But that is the very reason both Joel and I believe we, for this season, are not called back to the United States yet. Life is easy here for so many. I realize there is suffering also in the States. But we believe we are called to a harder life for yet awhile longer so that we can help others both to know Jesus and know what it means to follow Him, as well as to train others to do the same partly through relieving physical suffering.
If you have been called, for any length of time, to minister to those in other countries, don't wait for the "passion" to come. Obey first and the passion will follow. Will it be a deep, moving passion that stays with you at all times? Only God knows. I know it's not about me and the amount of passion I may or may not have at any given moment. It's simply about following my Father.