This post is provided by T Welch, a student at Southeastern. Check his blog, Adventures in Africa
On Saturday, April 5th I hit a wall of discouragement. Wave upon wave of discouragement were crashing around me. As water crashes against the shore so discouragement was crashing against my soul. I wanted to curl up into a ball in the corner of the room and cry myself to sleep. Julia and I were attempting to watch a movie but all I could think about was how much of a failure I was. I kept thinking, “I have failed.” “I am the worst missionary.” “I have failed.” “God is not pleased with my work.” “I have failed.”
My discouragement began while I was thinking back to training in Richmond a little over a year ago. While at training we heard incredible stories about what God was doing all over the world. We heard stories of church planting movements in which workers were being used of God to plant hundreds of churches, we heard stories of God healing the sick and using workers to share their faith with thousands of people. We left for the field excited to charge Hell with a water pistol. I naively, thought I would show up, open my mouth and hundreds would flock to Jesus. This has not been the case.
Julia and I do not have stories of thousands coming to the Lord or hundreds of churches being planted. We have a few stories of God saving souls but no where near the level of stories which would fill a book or be shared during training. My Muslim friends are still Muslim. The witches of Gambaga politely listen to my Bible story every week but after I leave they still go to the mosque or sacrifice to the spirits. The patients at tuberculosis baptist church worship God while He is healing them but they will stop worshiping God once they return to their home village.
Our story is not one to fill a book or pack an auditorium with eager listeners. If I were honest our time on the field has been mainly spent sitting with nationals, listening and occasionally speaking. I have spent thousands of hours (no I’m not exaggerating) sitting, listening and occasionally speaking with Muslims, patients at the hospital, chaplains and pastors. Saturday night I was discouraged. Have I accomplished anything? Am I a failure?
The hidden reality of life overseas as a worker is that mass movements of people groups to Christ do not happen overnight. I have grown up with instant access to everything. Instant access to news, gossip, friends, television, etc. the real world; however, is not filled with instant success. Life on the field/life in ministry is not filled with instant success. Rather, success is measured in faithfulness. Am I faithful? Have I been faithful in language learning? Have I been faithful in sharing my faith? Have I been faithful going out? Have I been faithful in discipleship? If you are able to answer yes to these questions than you are successful.
The reality of life on the mission field is that most of us will not see mass numbers of people come to faith in Christ during our service. This reality does not get shared in training or published in books, newsletters and blogs. As workers we are not called to be successful in evangelism but rather to be faithful. The reality of work overseas is about dying to self, going out into the community everyday, listening and talking and providing a witness to the Gospel.
When we are faithful day in and day out we are like water which faithfully/constantly drips over rock for thousands of years and eventually creates a canyon. Our constant and consistent witness in the community is being used by God to prepare the soil for someone to come along after we leave and reap a harvest.
We are thankful that God has called us here and allowed us NOT to see mass individuals come to Christ in order to learn that faithfulness is more important than success.