I’ve been privileged to lead a number of short-term international mission trips over the years, but our trip to Asia over the last couple of weeks was perhaps the most challenging trip I’ve had the opportunity to lead. On top of changing plans, I, and others, struggled with a pretty nasty stomach virus. However, in spite of the challenges, God taught me much about Himself during our time away.
Our first week in Asia was great. We had the opportunity to work with a wonderful group of church leaders who gave four days of their time to be taught the doctrine of the Trinity. These church leaders live in a rural area, and they are not highly educated. However, they are daily giving their lives for the sake of the Gospel, and they desire to lead their churches well.
After four days of training, our plan was to go further north and conduct training in an area that was even more rural. However, at the advice of the church leaders we were working with, we chose not to make the trip of north. Since we were in a country where Christianity is heavily persecuted, these church leaders were concerned for our safety. They felt as if the location we were traveling to was unsafe and would put us as well as the believers in that community in danger. After much prayer, we made the decision not to go. It just didn’t seem wise.
We had about a week left in Asia, and we had no group to train. The group we trained the previous week invited us to return and give them more training. However, that’s when the virus hit. The virus hit me and several in the village making it unwise to return to the village to train those church leaders. We lodged in the city close to the rural village, and we obviously did not want to waste our second week in Asia. We wanted to do what we came to Asia to do: train and disciple church leaders. Our translator, who was from the city we were lodging in, began to make phone calls, and within a couple of hours he had us meeting with a local school teacher and her family. They wanted us to come to their home and teach the Bible to them and several of their friends. This teacher is a church leader who feels inadequate in her Bible knowledge and in her ability to lead. She wanted her and her family along with a few other believers to learn the Book of Ephesians, so for the remainder of our trip we worked with this handful of believers.
To be honest, my first reaction was that this was a waste. After all, the week prior we trained around twenty church leaders, and now we were spending the rest of our time in Asia training one leader and a handful of believers. It didn’t seem like a good use of our time. Last year when we were in Asia, we had the opportunity to train over 200 church leaders. Now, we sat in a home with about seven people discussing the Word of God. While I certainly enjoy discussing the Word of God regardless of the size of the group, it sure seemed like a long way to travel to have a small group Bible study.
God had to remind me that His plans are higher than my plans (Isaiah 55:8-9). Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” What a reminder! I can make plans all I want, but God knows exactly what He is doing. While our trip didn’t work out the way that we might have planned, I have the full assurance that God established our steps. He knew exactly where He wanted us to be, and He knew exactly why He wanted us to be in the home of a school teacher walking her, her family, and her friends through the Book of Ephesians. I learned several important lessons about God during our Asia trip.
God is not wasteful.
To me, our time in the home of this lady and her family at first seemed as a waste. We went to Asia to train as many church leaders as we could, not just one. While it may have seemed as a waste to me, it wasn’t a waste to God. God doesn’t waste anything. He doesn’t waste time, He doesn’t waste resources, and He doesn’t waste His people who make themselves available to His mission. Our team had made themselves completely available to the mission of God while we were in Asia, and in His providence, God used us exactly as He wanted to use us. He did not waste our time, and He did not waste our resources. In His sovereign design, He wanted us in the home of this family, and He wanted us to teach the Book of Ephesians. We may never know why God wanted us in Asia in the home of this particular church leader, but God knows exactly why
God is not inefficient.
To me, sitting in the home of one family seemed like an inefficient way to affect this Asian country. It seemed much more efficient to train lots of church leaders at one time rather than to simply focus on one church leader. However, God is not inefficient at all. He is extremely efficient. He knows exactly how He is going to accomplish His plan in Asia. He knows who He is going to use, and He knows how He is going to use the people in this Asian country to expand His Kingdom. This family that we ministered to has much influence in their city. The wife is a high school teacher, and the husband is a manager at the rail station. They come in contact with many people on a daily basis. Only God knows how He is going to use this family, and for whatever reason, God knew that the best and most efficient use of our time in Asia was to be directly involved with this family and their friends.
God is not unwise.
My perspective is limited, but God’s perspective is unlimited. He sees the totality of His plan while I only see what He chooses to reveal to me. Since God sees the totality of His plan, He knows perfectly how to bring His plan to fruition in the lives of His people. He is all-wise. He sees all, and He knows all. He has never made a bad or wrong decision. And, He didn’t make a bad decision in sending three of us from Big Stevens Creek to a distant land to sit in the home of a family and teach the Word of God. God’s decision was perfect, and His decision to send us will accomplish exactly what He wants to accomplish. He is wise. God knows what He is doing.
I’m still reflecting on what God taught me about Himself as I was in Asia. However, these lessons that God has taught me about Himself has already reminded me of a couple of changes I need to make in my own life.
I need to trust God fully.
When my plans fall apart, I panic and worry. When my plans fall apart, I begin to question God and what He’s up to. Sometimes when my plans fall apart I get depressed. However, if God is not wasteful, and if He is not inefficient, and if He is not unwise, why should I worry? Why should I panic? Why should I get depressed? Instead, it would make much more sense for me (and for you) to trust God fully even when our plans fall apart. “…but the Lord establishes his steps.” I need to constantly remind myself that if I am making myself available to God and His mission, He will establish my steps according to His perfect will.
I need to be at perfect peace.
I found myself questioning God a lot while we were in the home of this Asian family last week. I asked questions like, “Are we in the right place?” And, “Isn’t there a better way to spend our time?” My constant questioning caused me to not enjoy fully the assignment that God had given me that second week of our trip. My constant questioning caused me to not have peace. In God’s design, I was exactly where He wanted me. And if I am exactly where God wants me to be, I can have perfect peace. I don’t need to worry or question. Instead, I can simply enjoy what God is doing in me and through me.
Every time I engage in God’s mission I learn so much. I am so thankful for the opportunity that Big Stevens Creek gives me and others to leave our normal responsibilities and engage in the mission of God in foreign cultures. I appreciate your prayers and support while our team was gone, and I hope that these lessons that I have learned will be lessons that you will learn as well. Let us continue to be confident in the greatness of our God, and may His greatness lead us to trust Him and experience perfect peace.
I am praying for you!