Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A great cloud of witnesses

The last few days I have been feeling the reality of being a missionary settling in. For the first week or so, everything was new and overwhelming. I was just trying to get settled into a new place. Now, even though I am still settling in, it is becoming more of a reality to why I am here. I chose to answer a calling I felt from God to go out and serve his people, the marginalized in society. He called me to a place I never thought I would live, Urbana, IL...a place where I know no one, I don't have a car, and I am 12 hours away from what I call home. No I am not off in Africa or Alaska, but I am away from what is comfortable to me, and from the people I love.

It is different when you go off and do missions for a spring break or a summer, when it becomes your life, each and every day, it becomes something like never before. Going into this I honestly thought somethings would be hard, but I thought I would have a lot easier time making new friends and feeling right at home rather fast. That's how it has always been for me in other places. This time is different, this time it is hard, it's stretching me and challenging me more than I have ever been challenged before. Don't get me wrong, I am not unhappy, I don't think that is the word....but I am uncomfortable, lonely, nervous, and in a state of complete reliance on God.

I love my new job, it is challenging but I am getting to do stuff that I really enjoy. The kids have been through so much yet they have so much joy to bring each day as well. I am learning I really do like this churchish work stuff, even though sometimes the church makes me crazy. I know I am in the right place, and I have not doubted that at all. I am confident that God called me here and wants me to be here. But I'm not going to lie, right now its hard when I come home from work and I don't have a friend to run and see if I had a bad day, or just someone to hang out with. I got spoiled living with all my friends over the last 4 years. I got used to being busy beyond belief each day of the week. Yet each day God is teaching me little lessons of patience, perserverance, that it is ok to struggle and feel lonely, that being in mission is not always easy, the importance of community, and that I really need to learn these lessons.

I was reading a section in this book called, Concepts of Missions that was put out by the UMW. It discusses the scripture of Genesis 11:31 and 12:1-3. It is talking about Abram and how God called him and said, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you." God offered Abram a direction on the road to take, but Abram had no idea where he was going. I kind of feel like that is what happened with God and I. He called me to do this US-2 Missionary program, and that led to the direction on a road to Urbana, IL...but I honestly had no idea where I was going and what I was getting myself into. Yet, Abram was faithful to God and God was always with Abram. The book talks about how later in the scriptures in the Epistle to the Hebrews the writer, "says with a profound sense of admiration for Abraham, that he is one of the great cloud of witnesses for faithful mission because "he went out not knowing where he went" (Heb. 12:8)

The book further goes on to say that "God's call is a responsibility. It is a major undertaking. This call demands our total being." So in all this I find peace to know that there is great cloud of witnesses from ancient times, to closer to the present, that have gone on before me, but have served God faithfully. It was not always easy, but they got through it. They followed the call. So I hope I can remember daily this scripture, that is gaining new meaning for me, from Heb. 12:1 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us."

Even though some days are rough, and I haven't met a whole lot of friends yet, I thank God for his faithfulness to me, for his love and strength. I thank all the ones that have gone before me that have served in their own ways. This song really encourages me and Carolyn Arends is a beautiful song writer.

I was just four, my grandmother’s place
I knelt by her sofa and started this race
And now I’ve been running for such a long while
I’ve kind of lost track of the miles
Sometimes I press on, sometimes I look back
Sometimes I just lay in the road on my back
When I’ve got to get up and I don’t know how
I hear in the distance the roar of a crowd

It’s the great cloud of witnesses
Cheering me on each step that I go
It’s the great cloud of witnesses
They say the finish is worth every inch of the road

Moses is there, up in his seat
With my Grandad Wilfred, my Nana Bernice (Pa-Paw Dickens and Newsome)
There’s Abraham, Isaac and my buddy Rich (counsin Amie)
And I think they’re shouting "don’t quit"

So if you are tired, and your back is sore
If you’re not so sure you can run anymore
Then just take a moment and listen real close
Do you hear a sound like a heavenly host?

It’s the great cloud of witnesses
Cheering us on each step that we go
It’s the great cloud of witnesses
They say the finish is worth every inch of the road

It’s friends and relations and each generation of saints who believed
And received The Prize
They have looked into His eyes

It’s the great cloud of witnesses …

I close with this prayer from the book...

O God of mission, as we cross borders in our lives, give us wisdom and courage to continue the journey. Grant us vision to see new horizons and new places where your liberating love needs us. In Jesus' name. Amen.


Jill said...

You totally inspire me with your insight. Find comfort in knowing that you are never alone...
God is watching you
We love you,
Mom, Dad, Page and Amie

Jill said...

oops...I meant,

God BELIEVES in you!!!

(one of Pierce Pettis's songs)

rather than God is WATCHING YOU.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing that devotion with me. I read it this morning, as per your advice, before I even saw that you'd posted it on your blog.

I just want to say that I feel exactly the same way about making friends. I mean, both you and I have a university nearby, but can we really fit in there? We aren't students anymore. We never went to those universities. Who would want to be our friends? Where can we find people our age? Who do we have things in common with? It's so difficult.

Maybe we won't make friends immediately, and we have to be patient for awhile. Maybe we could also offer people money to be our friends.