Tuesday, September 27, 2016

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 wouldn't 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 that 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 didn’t 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 weren’t 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.