In September, we celebrated the 10th Birthday of our Church Plant, Calvary Chapel Jaco (The Upper Room Jaco). 10 Years!!! Can you believe that? The last 10 years have gone by so fast… and yet it also feels like it has been forever!
Many of you may not realize that CCJ was the first missionary planted church in Jaco. The fact we are still here is a testament to the faithfulness of God. You learn a lot when you’ve been on the mission field for 10 years. Here are just a few of the lessons the mission field has taught me.
1. You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
One of the first lessons (and most important) is realizing how little you know upon arrival! Sure, you may THINK you know a lot and are well prepared, but quickly realize you aren’t! There is so much to learn: language, culture, customs, laws, a new city, new people… and that’s just the beginning.
You also need to learn about God, yes God, in a new way. Your preconceived ideas of God will be challenged! You will witness Him working outside of your “cultural box” as you get to know your new surroundings. The mission field also forces you to trust Him with your life in ways you never have before.
2. You Are Weaker Than You Thought
Another important lesson the mission field teaches you is how much you CAN’T do apart from the power and grace of God. Actually, you can do a lot in your own strength, but it has no eternal value and leaves you feeling burnt out and empty inside. Going through the motions of ministry doing “what a missionary is supposed to do” will drain your passion for the work of God. Yet, I spent my first 7 years trying to do just that!
3. You Will Feel Like A Failure At Times
Those moments and feelings are often the breaking points for many missionaries. They lose passion or funding (or both) and simply quit and go home believing they just can’t cut it. I’ve walked that ledge and it’s not a good feeling, only to be pulled back by the grace of God and the prayers of the saints. It’s not where one envisions themselves being when they set out to do ministry, but almost every missionary has been there at some point. Thankfully, you experience the faithfulness of God in these times as well!
4. Ministry Is Spiritual So Pray… A lot!
The mission field has taught me prayer is vital to “making it” as a missionary (whatever that means). Especially having people pray for you regularly.
Those of you who pray for us regularly are one of the main reasons we are still here… your efforts will be rewarded in heaven and I thank you tremendously! The prayers of believers move mountains and avail much, so please, never stop praying for missionaries.
Making time for personal prayer is also essential for the health of the missionary and the ministry, though admittedly, it seems to be easily set aside for the sake of the “work” of ministry.
10 years on the mission field have taught me that PRAYER IS THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY!
Prayer alone can do more for your ministry than 10 new programs can! I admit I still struggle at times to pray as I feel I should, but I’m learning and growing in this too!
5. God Knows What He Is Doing
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned on the mission field is that God doesn’t make mistakes when He calls us! Many missionaries feel unqualified (I know I do) so they look for a “successful ministry” and begin copying what brought someone else “success”.
Sometimes this plan works, if you are gifted in the same ways as the one you are copying. Most often it leads to inconsistent results and greater frustration. I tried it, only to discover I failed miserably at copying others and I was miserable while trying. While we should always learn from others, we shouldn’t be quick to copy them until we know how God wants us to fulfill His call.
Despite the shortcomings a missionary feels, God knows this and calls us anyway. As we learn to die to self-efforts, God is faithful to equip us for the calling He gave us. This means we don’t have to do it in our own wisdom and strength because God never intended us to.
6. Be Yourself (But Fully Rely Upon Him)
The fact is, God created you and called you for a reason, don’t overlook who you are and how He has gifted you! The faster you learn this lesson, the faster you will excel in your calling. It took me 7 years to accept this reality…
It wasn’t until God spoke to my heart and told me to “stop trying to be someone else” that I began experiencing great freedom and joy in the ministry.
Because God is faithful to lead us where He wants us, our life and ministry reflect who He has called us and gifted us to be. As we function in our gifting it allows others to function in theirs. This shifts the focus onto the body of Christ and our Lord Jesus, producing something beautiful and fresh.
As a result, our church may not look like a “typical” church plant, but we are reaching people and we are making disciples and having a blast while doing it! God is changing us and transforming people’s lives and that is very exciting!
7. God Is Faithful!
Pastoring a church on the mission field can be very hard at times. They’re even harder if you aren’t functioning the way God has called you and gifted you to. But, as I look back over 10 years, seeing some heart breaks and much joy, I can honestly say there is nothing else I would rather do than serve the Lord and His people. Above all, I can testify that God has been patient and loving and present at all times.
It is the faithfulness of God that gives me great hope for the next 10 years and I truly believe the best is yet to come!
8. You Can’t Do Ministry On The Mission Field Alone
Our life and ministry on the mission field have only been possible because of God’s faithfulness in providing through supporters like you! We want to THANK YOU for your faithfulness in allowing Him to use you to support us. We know many of you have made sacrifices in order to partner with us in this work. We are blessed and amazed at how God has provided for us time and again through your generosity. It is a wonderful picture of the body of Christ functioning in love for God’s Glory!
As we end 2015, we want to remind you that you can still make tax-deductible, end of year contributions to our family and ministry. The end of the year tends to be a tough season for us as missionaries due to extra financial needs in our lives and ministry. Anything you are able to donate is much appreciated and enables us to continue serving the Lord on the mission field. Thank you so much for your continued support and thank you in advance for considering Lawrence Family Missions in your end of year giving!
Some More Pictures From The Mission Field Over The Years…
(Click on the pictures for a larger preview!)