However, I cannot ignore the weekly frustrations that not only I, but probably most missionaries, have to endure. It comes with the territory of attempting to establish a congregation in a different culture. I share these with you now, but not for the purpose of looking for sympathy. There are other reasons. First, because just about everything we share on the blog paints a perfect picture of the work here. I think it is also helpful to share the struggles. Second, I share this list because you can help the work here through prayer. I ask that you please view the following as prayer requests.
Personally, I probably struggle, or at least think about, the following obstacles on a weekly basis. There are a lot of ways you can respond and provide the other side of these frustrations in the form of encouragement, and those are welcome. But please remember I am just sharing frustrations. The other side of these issues are often already shared in other posts.
- Immaturity. This is not a reference to my own immaturity (although that is, at times, a problem). I refer mainly to the spiritual immaturity of new converts and of those who are coming to know Christ. There is another congregation in the city that is much more established. They have been around for approximately 40 years! It is a breath of fresh air whenever I meet with one of the members. Although we are from different cultures, there is an immediate understanding that does not yet exist in our own congregation. The same happens whenever I return to the States. I am among Christians who have grown up in the church. These examples are in stark contrast with those who have recently come to Christ. There are weekly frustrations in doctrine, giving, attitudes, etc. I often think of the day when the congregation can enjoy more growth in Christ.
- Guidance and understanding. I am a young missionary who is attempting to do something I have never done before. There are so many times during the week where I wish I could have immediate guidance from someone who has once passed through what I am currently experiencing. I have never built a house, but imagine trying to do so with just a manual. It would be much easier to have the expertise of a contractor by my side. It is a similar feeling when trying to help plant a church.
- Instability. The is similar to the first frustration I mentioned. The Parable of the Sower haunts me. Jesus warned us that much of the seed that we cast will fall on bad soil. There are so many individuals, and even new converts, that encourage me with their enthusiasm and growth, and then suddenly they disappear. There is no controversy or division in the church. They just leave. It is difficult not to take it personally. The work consists of investing in people, and when you spend yourself to build up others, it is heart-breaking when they leave.
- The numbers game. Some may argue with me, but I believe every type of missionary eventually plays this game. The game is the constant temptation to have the result of your work rise and fall on just a few totals throughout the week. Whether it is the worship attendance number or the number of weekly one-on-one studies, we put a lot of weight into numbers. The inspired writer Luke gets me excited when he mentions the big numbers in Acts. 3,000 in one day! He was giving a historical report, but there must have been a reason why he continued to communicate the progress. It is because numbers are important. The frustration begins, and the trap in the game begins, when we begin to believe that we are guiding the numbers. That the growth depends solely on our work. During the past year, I have shifted towards a more spiritual emphasis among individuals in order to avoid this trap.
I am tempted to add a disclaimer to the end of this post and explain how I am putting to rest these weekly demons. However, this is just one aspect of the work. It is enough to say that the blessings of the work far outweigh its challenges. Please pray for myself, and the rest of the missionaries, as we continue to work though these challenges.