There was a very clear theme in the commissioning service Friday evening. It was fascinating to me to hear several men from different states share such resonate, harmonious thoughts. What I clearly heard was that God is going to use this experience to refine us and shape more into the image of Jesus and through that process He will use us to take the Gospel to others.
There were various analogies used: Fire and dross, Potter and clay, Sculptor and stone, Blacksmith and anvil, Vine and fruit. All of these are pictures of God intimately working to bring about a change in a person. Yet the sobering truth was that God will only work in us to the degree we choose to be emptied of selfish ambition. In many ways, I hold the key to God’s success in my life.
I shared some thoughts myself that I will put here for those of you who weren’t there.
The work in Peru—What does that even mean? I wonder what goes through your mind when you think of missions or this mission in particular.
In my mind, the work in Peru is really not much different from the work in the States. We are simply moving to a new community where we will continue living for Jesus, much like we’ve done here. The unbelievers there are very similar to unbelievers here. They need to learn about God’s Law and hear the call to repent.
But when I think about the work in Peru, I mostly think about the work in me and the work in my family. Maybe you think that missionaries are supposed to be those people who have life pretty well figured out and are holy enough and brave enough and strong enough and all the other enoughs to take the Gospel to another place.
Perhaps that’s the way it’s supposed to be, but I know I’m not enough. Unfortunately, many of you know this for a fact. You’ve seen my issues—you’ve had to endure them—and you know how messy I can be.
I know this, too, and that’s part of the reason for choosing Peru. I know I need the discipline and rigor and refining that this experience has potential to bring. I’m not under any delusions that serving God in another country will magically make me a better person, but I have learned that the narrow way of sacrifice and the experience of going through the fire does change me more into the image of Jesus.
I love the Lord, and I want to honor Him with my life. Stephanie feels the same way, and together we want that for our family. We love sharing Jesus with people; that won’t change, except to grow as we grow. We see a need in our own lives of greater discipline and more intense focus on who we’re meant to be. We want to be changed; I want to be changed. And in the process, I want to be used in God’s plan.
This season is an intentional step of placing ourselves in the Potter’s hands to be shaped into what He has planned, hopefully with fewer distractions, not to merely put in our time in a service opportunity, but to especially develop the servant lifestyle we’ve been striving for.
Why not do that in the States, you may ask. I think I can honestly say we have been trying, but besides the fact that I keep running up against all the distractions and attractions our culture bombards us with, there is something about forcing oneself to try something new, to see life through different lenses, to learn to listen better, and to become less afraid of the other that the opportunity in Peru offers in a unique way. Maybe I’m all wet, but I’m looking forward to learning perhaps like I’ve never learned before.
Stephanie’s biggest fear is likely raising six children in a strange place where things are just harder than here, even something as simple as getting water or making food. But she will find God grants grace sufficient for the day.
My biggest fear is loneliness and feeling forgotten. But I hope to learn better that Jesus Christ is all I need.
I didn’t ask Jolynn what her biggest fear is, but it might be that she’s afraid she’ll have to leave Peru again someday. We are grateful to Jolynn for sharing her time and energies with our family in this way. We are grateful to Levi’s family, and Josiah especially, for sharing Jolynn. God bless you for giving.
Thank you to everyone who has given encouragement through words, words are so powerful. Thank you to those who sacrificed time and resources to enable us to go. God bless you for pouring into our lives and His work.
Thank you to our families for your part in making us who we are. I am grateful for learning better who God is because of you.
Thank you to our church family. We love you all so dearly, and we feel your love for us. Stay faithful and busy about the Master’s work.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. Brethren, pray for us.”
I Thessalonians 5:23-25 NKJV