As can be expected, this news has brought a flood of emotions and many, many tears. My oldest son Kaden just sat on my lap and sobbed. He said that he wanted to see her soon “in person” and that he was really concerned for his Grandpa’s feelings through all of this. Makyra stopped a stranger on the street and asked them to pray. And Elias is fervently praying that God will take away Grandma’s “cancer ball” (AKA tumor). For the few of you that know my children, they are balls of energy and never, I mean never, stop talking. When we told them the news, they all were completely silent. For minutes. I did not know such a silence and sobriety was possible with my children. Clearly they love their grandma.
And for me, she is my mom so the sorrow runs deeper than that of all my children combined. I do not even want to think of living life without her. But possibly the worst part of all is the nagging question of: What am I doing here? What am I doing on the other side of the world when I could be taking her to her chemo appointments? What am I doing confining our relationship with her to a computer screen on Skype? She should be getting regular hugs from her grandkids right about now. I have never felt the piercing depth of the cost of coming to the mission field as deeply as I do now.
And yet, while I do think that there is a time for missionaries to go back home, at least for a season, the Lord has used two things this week to encourage me to continue steadfastly in the work that is here before us, even through many tears:
There are Eternal Souls to be Won
The Lord in his mercy has allowed me to have one of the most fruitful weeks of ministry than I have ever had since arriving here. I think, in his kindness, he is showing me that, as painful as it is to be here, he has work that he has set aside for me that I need to do.
Specifically, I have invited a team of Cameroonian and Congolese missionaries from Child Evangelism Fellowship to come put on a training for children’s workers in our region and it has been amazing. There are many highlights, but one that I find most touching is that there are various tribes represented in the training who are illiterate and who live in abject poverty (including the Bakoum). Then there are those who are very educated and “high church” if you will. And here, generally the “upper class” tribes look at the other tribes (specifically the Baka, a pygmy tribe) with distain and treat them as less than human. But what I have seen this week is the body of Christ at its finest.
Just yesterday, the trainers spent 4 hours with the Baka gentleman trying to teach him how to write a Bible verse and teach it to children. I am hopeful that he will return to his village and teach the Word of God to children in his native tongue. Further, other “high church” ladies have worked with this same brother until dark. And a group of Bakoum people from a neighboring village have agreed to teach, with my help, regular evangelistic Bible stories in Bakoum to children in their village.
These may sound like ordinary things, but for here, French is the “language of God” and many people just go through the motions each Sunday, understanding little. So to have Bible stories taught in the local tongue on a weekly basis is Jesus stepping off his throne in Heaven and taking on flesh. It is Jesus peeling back his “white skin” (in their local stories of Jesus, he is a beautiful white man with long, soft hair) and becoming African. This training could possibly be one of the ways God is reaching unreached people groups with the Gospel.
I think this kind of work is what Peter meant when he called the church to “Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19). I think that as Christians we are simultaneously sorrowful yet always rejoicing for the work we see God doing in and through us.
God’s Loving Care for My Mom
God has given me another gift this week. He has let me see his love for my mom through those that are with her. From Christian neighbors across the street, to my brother who will be there to see her this week, from family members, then her church family, and finally to my Dad who is her 24 hour nurse, I see now that God’s loving care for my mom does not depend on me.
His love is too great to be contained in one person. I am not the sum total of God’s love towards her, I am much too small. His love for his image bearers takes people from every tribe, tongue and nation to express the tender care that is in his heart for the suffering. His thoughtful love is seen in people bringing her meals, others crying with her on the phone, my friends and neighbors letting me cry on their shoulders and my Dad painting her a mural on the wall to look at when she’s in bed. Taken all together, we can step back and see a loving Creator behind it all. And he receives glory for the sum total of all those who have reflected his character in one way or another.
When I think of being so far away from my mom, the Lord responds with the words of Jeremiah the prophet when God asks, “’Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord” (23.24). The Lord fills hospital rooms and houses filled with tears. I trust him to care for her well, even if my part in that is smaller than I would like it to be.
And so, I tearfully and prayerfully will continue my work this week. I will continue praying for this people and praying for my mom, trusting that there is no one who can care for her better than the Lord who fills heaven and earth. And, at the same time I also pray for the Lord’s wisdom and guidance as to how we can be there for her and love her during this difficult time. Our hearts are with her even though we are physically so far away.