I love Missions Month here at Legacy. For 31 days we zero in and focus on God’s call to seek and to save the lost, in our own neighborhoods and in Ukraine and the Philippines, in our own subdivisions and on the streets of downtown Fort Worth and Nairobi. We get to meet and hear our missionaries who are doing Kingdom work all over the globe. We get to see pictures and hear stories about the salvation work of God through Christ. We get to witness the ongoing reconciliation of the world back to its gracious Creator.
And it energizes me. It’s strong. It fills me with a renewed sense of purpose and mission. (It also fills me, in some ways, with envy. These missionaries are on the front lines of the Lord’s battle with Satan. They’re making a real difference in people’s lives, having a genuine eternal impact on the Kingdom. Meanwhile, I sometimes feel like a “religious shopkeeper,” to borrow a Eugene Peterson term. Sometimes I feel like I’m just a chaplain for a local congregation. But that’s a different post for another day. Stay on task! Stay on task!)
This past week, through the miracle of the internet skype, our wonderful young missionaries in Kharkov, Ukraine, David & Olivia Nelson, were able to join us live from their bedroom for our Sunday morning worship assembly. There they were, up on the big screens in the worship center, talking to us about life in Eastern Europe. And David kind of poured his heart out to us.
It was unexpected. It was unscripted. It was open and honest and real.
David looked right into the camera, right into our eyes, and thanked us for the prayers and the money and the cards and the calls and the letters. He praised God for our partnership in spreading the great news. And then he told us, point-blank, that the honeymoon’s over. Life as a missionary in Ukraine isn’t nearly as glamorous now as it was when they got there six months ago. It’s hard. Nobody speaks English. It’s dark and cold. It hasn’t stopped snowing. Different language. Different culture. Different habits. Lonliness. Rejection. It’s tough. And David told us. It’s difficult.
And our hearts broke.
David read the passage I had selected from 1 Timothy about being rich in good deeds. And he led us in a beautiful prayer from nearly six-thousand miles away. But I think we were still processing the things David had said earlier.
We were all deeply touched by their honest confession. And divinely inspired and encouraged by their Christ-like resolve. All of us. I know that because apparently most of our church family bombarded the Nelsons with phone calls and emails as soon as our service was over.
Olivia sent out their weekly prayer list on Tuesday and started with this:
“Surrounded. That’s how I feel today as I’m sitting here writing you all. I feel surrounded by so many of you, and most of you are really far away right now! How God can use his Body to give us hugs that seem to reach across oceans is beyond me, but he does and I’m grateful. Yesterday David and I were able to worship with Legacy from our bedroom. David briefly shared with the congregation about how things were going here, then read a scripture and prayed for us all. We spent the next hour sitting on our bed, singing, praying, and glorifying our Lord with our family in Fort Worth. Since then, emails have been popping into our inbox, encouraging us and spurring us on, each one of them touching us in different ways. He is using you all — your prayers, your notes, your emails, your phone calls — to remind us of his love. Thank you! In Him Always, David and Olivia.”
How does God work on both sides of the world at the same time to inspire a thousand people in North Texas and to encourage a lonely missionary couple in Ukraine? I have no idea. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
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