Saturday, September 28, 2019

Vulnerable Missionary

“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.  Be as wary as snakes and harmless as doves."  Matthew 10:16

There have been times when I have felt so vulnerable in ministry I thought I would not survive. We yearn for protection and someone to lean on and carry us through precarious experiences.

A deranged man walked into the front entrance of our home at the hospital campus we lived at in Pakistan. In those days the need for security had not yet been heightened. We felt protected and enclosed by a wall that surrounded the campus. I was alone at the time when the man walked in. He pushed me against the wall. I was badly frightened. Not knowing what to do I prayed and pushed the man out the door. I had never witnessed such strength coming from my body like that. He yelled, “Next time I will come with a gun.” I felt very vulnerable.

Living in another home on the same campus, we had a door to the courtyard which had a bolt. All the missionary men on the campus were in a meeting. Suddenly there was an unusual loud banging on the door. I thought someone was in trouble. As I opened the door there stood a man who was clearly wild looking and unkempt. He scared the living daylights out of me. He appeared so unusually strong I thought he could easily have taken the door off its hinges. I asked him where he came from and he said, “I live in a graveyard.” All I knew was that I did not want him to step inside so I ordered him to follow me. I walked towards the clinic buildings where there would be many people milling about. As we approached the crowds the man abruptly stopped, knelt down at my feet, and declared loudly, “You are Maryam, the mother of Isa Masih.” I ordered him to get up and told him flatly, “No, I am not the mother of Isa Masih.” Thankfully, the crowds noticed what was happening and led him away. I felt very vulnerable. This was all new to me.

After  ten years in Pakistan we sensed the Lord was redirecting us to engage with Muslims in our homeland but the pieces of the puzzle were not all in place. It was a vulnerable sensitive time; especially when many people in churches would say, “Oh, you were a missionary in Pakistan.” – with emphasis on were. I felt vulnerability at the core of my being in the area of identity. Vulnerability can show up even at the Muslim parties or functions I am invited to. Observing women whispering about me has sometimes made me feel vulnerable. What are they saying, thinking? I wonder as I watch their body language. Eyes say a lot. Some witnessing encounters can still make me feel vulnerable to feeling possible rejection. Experiencing vulnerability threatened a strong desire to remain hidden when I chose to use my real name as an author rather than a pseudonym and when my blog went public.  What will happen? Experiencing vulnerability is uncomfortable. I suspect Jesus often felt vulnerable; especially on the cross. Feeling vulnerable is not a sin. Feeling vulnerable simply reveals we are human.

Vulnerable missionaries need a shield. God has been my Shield these many years. And He will be yours, too.

Dear heavenly Father, I am so thankful that Jesus understands feeling vulnerable and can help me. Amen.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

My Pilgrimage

"So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son embraced him, and kissed him."  Luke 15:20

Millions of sincere Muslims make the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia to be assured that their sins have been forgiven and to fulfill Allah's requirement.

I have gone on a spiritual pilgrimage, too. Maybe the word journey sounds more relevant. My first impressions of God were formed when I was awakened by dawn's call to prayer in Somalia. The cacophony caused me to be afraid of God. I received excellent Biblical instruction growing up. To be obedient to God was firmly engrained in me. Early in life I believed the doctrinal truth about Jesus being my Savior and the One in whom forgiveness is found. When I was 13 years old I became rebellious. Praise God that I began to find power over sin through Jesus. He began to transform and tame my rebellious nature. Over the years my journey has taken me down into spiritual valleys, across lonely deserts, up to the mountain tops and into the rivers of discovering the magnificent beauty of my wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ. The destination of my spiritual journey was not to a city nor a sacred building but to my permanent Home in the heart of God where we commune with each other. The sacrificial blood of Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, washed my sinful heart clean. Now I have assurance that my sins are forgiven. I have peace. Today I feel loved by God. In the meantime my spiritual journey continues to unfold surprises: hearing my name and His gentle whispers, being comforted, experiencing dreams and visions that encourage me on, and witnessing signs and wonders and miracles that have a way of taking my breath away. When I’m stressed out or suffering I feel His nearness and presence. I still have unanswered questions on my journey of faith. I’ve been broken but He’s put me back together a few times. I feel Jesus understands my temptations, failures and weaknesses and helps me with them. I  discovered that as I made my journey towards the heart of God, He had already come to me on the way with outstretched arms.  Indeed He was waiting for me. God made the journey to me!

My journey has taken me from: having fear of God - to obeying rules - to seeing my sinfulness - discovering my Savior - to enjoying fellowship with Him - entering suffering and brokenness - to  spiritual intimacy with God. I am in His heart and He is in my heart. I yearn for my Muslim friends performing their Hajj pilgrimage to meet God waiting for them with open arms of love. He meets each of us on our journeys wherever they may take us.

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for coming to me. In Jesus' name, Amen.