by: Our Friend, Charlene
There is an anonymous quote that claims this:
Spend a day in a country and you can write a book. Spend a week, you can write an article. Spend a lifetime, you can hardly write a sentence.
As I attempt to respond to the question of what we accomplished in our seven years in northern India, I feel that strain between an article and a sentence. There was so much life lived in those seven years, oceans of meaningful existence. But how do I speak to accomplishment, especially in the spiritual sense?
Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 3:6-15 that he planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase . . .
From the very beginning I found these verses to be significant for our lives as servants in a foreign place. Even Paul, the missionary of missionaries, called himself nothing, but clearly attributed the harvest to the Lord who indeed brings it.
International workers often feel the pressure to report amazing works of progress on the field, even those of us who have had the most wonderful and faithful supporters. This is probably due largely to the fact that their very income is dependent upon people who believe in their work enough to support them financially. Workers feel responsible to those who give. They want their supporters to know that their hard-earned money is going to a worthy cause, that they are indeed furthering the gospel through their gifts. Therefore, monthly blog posts, newsletters, and other updates tend to focus on such progress. There is also space for pubic praise and the sharing of prayer requests, but it is difficult to balance it all at times.
In addition to this responsibility, there is the expectation, whether spoken or unspoken, that international workers are closer to God, more like Him than anyone else, more holy for the work they do. What a challenge it can be at times to rationalize these depictions of ourselves when we are struggling to love our family members well, or fighting busyness as our friends at home do.
While integrity and accountability are extremely important for those in ministry, we who serve must continually remind ourselves that it is God who gives the increase. For all our labors in a challenging environment, we are nothing apart from Him.
My husband and I consider ourselves extremely blessed to have been witnesses of God’s increase in our beloved Himalayan town. In our short years we watched numerous young people find freedom in Christ and in Godly discipleship relationships. We walked beside them through deep pain and emotional injury resulting from childhood abuse. Young men felt the freedom to express their inmost struggles, even thoughts of suicide. Others shared their struggles in relationships. Many allowed us the honor of speaking Truth into their fears and pain.
We witnessed baptisms in a place where public decisions to follow Christ are challenged and dangerous. Our youth became compassionate lovers of others before our eyes. We had the privilege of laying the foundation for continued youth ministry and youth participation in all aspects of local church life.
We loved deeply and gave everything . . .but God gave the increase and we know that. We know that we are nothing, that nothing good could come from our efforts alone. We consider ourselves tremendously precious in the Lord’s eyes to be given such a gift.As I rest this morning on a comfortable couch, glancing out the windows on a bright, cool, winter day, I remember this mountainous place that captivated my heart. It is a beautiful place where we witnessed God at work and where He continues to move today. It is a place filled with people whom I love deeply, a land that I miss and some days long for. But today I am here, in this place, and the same God who used me there and sustained me there, loves me here.
In a book that ministered to my heart as I was first adjusting back to American life, I found these words,
(God) created time and space, he created place. He is the author of our identity. Our physical location may change, but our song can still go on. The song may change, it may become more of a song of remembrance, but it can still be a song of joy.
--‘Between Worlds,’ by Marilyn R. Gardner
Others planted, we watered, but God gave the increase. He deserves all the praise, honor and glory. We are forever thankful.
About the Author: Charlene and her husband have spent the past seven years serving in South Asia, most of their 11 years of marriage. They've recently transitioned back to America. Charlene loves singing, hiking, and spending time with people, and there is nothing more beautiful to her than the Himalayas and the faces of those who live there.