We were talking to our small group leader about our upcoming move to Paris, France. He said to us, “Life’s not going to be just eating baguettes by the Eiffel Tower.” We do eat baguettes by the Eiffel pretty often, actually, but overseas ministry has involved and demanded so much more than I imagined.
My husband accepted an associate pastor job at an English-speaking international church in a village on the outskirts of Paris. 40 different countries are represented from embassy and UNESCO staff to refugees. While the past year has brought many challenges I didn’t expect, I’m so grateful for the lessons God taught me at home.
Here’s Three Lessons I’m Thankful I Learned at Home:
1. Lay A Firm Foundation
Moving to a different culture, you’ll discover that people (even other Christians) will have very different beliefs and values than you. You might think you know for sure what you believe, and then someone asks you about demons taking the form of evil mermaids. Or a Muslim refugee wants to be baptized as a “Christian” so the government won’t send them back to their war-torn country.
Often what you thought you knew in your heart and mind to be absolutely true will be challenged. So, take this time to dig deep in the Word. Soak up good teaching. Study and wrestle and ask hard questions now so that you’ll be prepared to deal with those situations. You’ll need to be willing to accept the opinions of others on the minor issues. You’ll need to be able to stand firm on what really matters: The Gospel and the Bible. Both require humility and a firm foundation in Scripture. Click this site to find out about a great program that will help give you this firm foundation.
2. Make A Habit of Rest
Ministry is demanding. Add on top of that the stress of living in a different culture where simple things like buying milk can take extra time and energy. But God commands that we take a Sabbath, that we take the time to remember our Creator and Lord who is sovereign over everything.
As much as we absolutely love living in this beautiful city of amazing culture and incredible food, sometimes our most restorative night out is dinner at Chipotle and an American movie because that feels safe and familiar. Usually we are the ones teaching and preaching on Sundays, so we have to take the time to read solid Christian books and listen to sermons on Monday Sabbaths. So, figure out now what “rest” looks like for you. What relaxes you and restores you? What helps you grow in your knowledge of God and turns your eyes back to your Savior? Create the habit NOW of making time for those things and it will be easier to fall back on later, in the busy demands of ministry life. Taking a Sabbath will enable you to do what God has called you to do.
3. Dig Deep
Cross cultural ministry usually means being far away from friends and family and everything you know. Adjusting to life in a new culture usually means giving up a lot of what makes you “you.” But He. is. worth. it.
So, while life is more stable and familiar, dig deep in your relationship with God. Get to know Him, depend on Him, enjoy Him. Because when everything is different, He will be the same. When you might be lacking things you need, He will be all you need. When you feel like you’re forgetting who you are, He will tell you that you are His. When you can’t remember why you’re even there, He will remind you that He is worth it.
Overseas ministry is an amazing calling – full of challenges and difficulties, but an incredible opportunity to see our great and powerful God at work. Prepare your heart and mind now so that He can use you later. It is the greatest privilege to be given a small part in His great plan of salvation and redemption for all nations and peoples, every tribe and tongue.