What it takes to serve as a missionary, part 1

Panama

By Glenn Herschberger, Converge Director of Mobilization 

My wife Susan and I have officially come off the field after having served in Panama City, Panama, as Converge missionaries and church planters with the A2:5 English-speaking focus among internationals.
 
Since being back in the US for approximately one month, I have reflected on our time on the foreign mission field. The following are some of my reflections on this great adventure.

1. Being a missionary is not glamorous. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done. I was a police officer for 24 years, planted a church and pastored there for 11 years. Living on the field for 3.5 years was a challenge. I tell people that every day was stressful.

2. Being a missionary was really hard on our marriage. On October 27 Susan and I celebrated 30 years of marriage. We have always had a strong marriage. Being on the field challenged us in ways we never expected. I am grateful we overcame the stress that being missionaries put on our marriage.

3. Being a missionary doesn't mean you become a super-hero Christian. For me, I think the opposite was true. God revealed some ugliness inside of me. I didn't see much good in me and discovered how much I need to grow in faith and holiness. I have a long way to go.

4. Being a missionary means loss and misunderstanding. When we left our church, we had many people tell us they would keep in touch and support us financially. Almost everyone who said these things stopped communicating with us and, in many cases, stopped supporting us financially.

5. Being a missionary can mean feeling guilty. Because we served in a tropical location, some might think we went to the beach or explored the jungle on a weekly basis. Instead, we found it very difficult to be serious taking Sabbath rest.

Through Scripture  I have had a chance to reflect more on the apostle Paul and his missionary service. I like what he wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-12:
"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
 
Paul was beaten, falsely accused, put in prison, shipwrecked and did not always have enough to live on. He was misunderstood and rejected. Yet Paul could say with absolute confidence that he learned to be content in every circumstance-- but only through the power of God. He says in Philippians 4:12-13: “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
 
Paul says he was dying daily, so as to give others the gift of life. I would think most missionaries will not have it as hard as Paul did, but still missionary work is hard work.

    Point - Summer 2018

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