Saturday, February 9, 2013
I'm on my way home from my 7th work and witness trip in 23 years of ministry. Some of the places and experiences I have encountered I would not trade for anything in the world. The call of a pastor is to preach the gospel to the lost and make disciples. When I first received my call I was an idealist. I had my vision of what being in the ministry would look like and now some 23 years later I see how much more interesting and unpredictable ministry truly has been then what I thought.
Last year I went to Ghana on the first ever biker and a backpack trip. It was amazing. We saw so many different things and so many come to Christ in less then 8 days. This past week I took a team of 5 including myself to Senegal. We as well rode motorbikes, meet amazing and wonderful people and seemed to travel hundreds of miles throughout the time. After 6 previous trips and two of them in Africa I thought I had Africa under my belt. I was wrong, but yet still transformed by His amazing grace yet again. I truly learned more about grace in weakness then I could ever imagine. Myself and two others encounters motorcycle accidents that changed the dynamics of the trip throughout the week. Our plans changed each time a different man went down and got hurt, yet through the challenges God was working and moving in our midst.
If it were not for two of us needing some medical attention none of us would have meet more of the people we meet and learned more about the challenges our missionaries deal with when they encounter their own health challenges. I truly sensed that He used our brokenness for His glory more then our abilities. Steve broke his collar bone and a wrist. He was such a trooper. He went through all the motions with such grace and yet his accident only put us off a day in our schedule.
When one of the local pastors found out what had happened and that Steve was still planning on coming out to the villages he was impressed with how much love we had to come so far as we had and still willing to endure so much inconvenience and hassle just for them. as he spoke those words tears filled my eyes as I heard him share his heart. I realized how God was working more through our suffering, pain and perseverance then how I thought he would work through our abilities and skills.
My injury seemed so minor in comparison to how God has demonstrated His grace throughout our teams collective pains and momentary affliction. Even though my entire right leg from the knee down is swollen, I have yet to really feel pain. Even as I write this I am not so sure I can even get my shoe back on my foot as it is so swollen. Yet I would not trade the perspective and grace of what I have seen and experienced for a fully functioning knee for anything. The Lord gave me a new verse in January 2013 for the year and has allowed me to experience it first hand. "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed unto his death.. Phil 3:10
Months before our trip the missionary told me not to expect as large of a harvest response in Senegal as I had experienced in Ghana. Because the people are animistic and Muslim they are harder to reach. I understood that statement and respected the experience and wisdom behind it, yet in my spirit I just sensed and trusted God for far more anyway. We had originally planned to show the Jesus film twice, but because of accidents and challenges we only showed it once. We prayed and were challenged to the very moment of showing the film. In summary before the night of the Jesus film showing we encountered plans delays, physical afflictions, 3 motorcycle accidents, witchcraft attacks and many other delays. Yet the night of the showing I believe there was approximately 500 people gathered to watch the film. We had sound issues and dead battery issues and yet the crowd waited at least 50 minutes for us to figure out the film and equipment.
We prayed a lot and looked to The Lord constantly and He always made a way. At the close of the film over 100 came to Christ that night. I was told if we had 1 or 2 converts we should consider it a successful mission. It was as if God works better through brokenness, weaknesses and challenges then we often give him space to work. As with most, I am not excited about suffering and challenges, but it does seem to be where His grace flows so wonderfully.
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair"; (2 Corinthians 4:7, 8 ) If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. (2 Corinthians 11:30 ).
Of all my previous missions experiences this trip was FULL of daily challenges. I thank God for accidents, weaknesses, delays and challenges - "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 )
Peter Migner, Pastor