Encouragement in Action

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Missionary life isn’t always smooth sailing!

With the missions team from Asheville here in Milan, there were some ministries and people that we wanted to follow up with from last year’s visit.  I also wanted to introduce them to some new people: missionaries in need of encouragement.

One missionary we met up with was going through a marital crisis.  I hadn’t had any idea how much trouble the couple were going through because each has spoken very little to me about it.  Honestly, I had thought that our meeting was to learn more about their ministries.  But that quickly turned into a counseling session.  Of course what we heard was only one side of the problem, since the spouse wasn’t present to respond.  The most troubling aspect was learning that they had separated.

Missionaries are not immune from marital difficulties[1].  Marriage is hard enough without the added pressures of ministry, living in a foreign culture, and in many cases not having a spiritual mentor available.  These things can drive a wedge between spouses and expose any weaknesses in the relationship.  Add to that the fact that no two people are on the exact same level spiritually.  One is always more spiritually mature than the other.  Unfortunately, I’ve known a few missionary couples whose marriage didn’t survive the mission field.

We did our best to encourage the missionary to continue marital counseling and to not give up.  Although the situation looks dire, with the words “I’m done” repeated no less than eight times, I was reminded that God is the God of resurrection.  He resurrected Lazarus, Jesus, and countless prophets days or even years after their deaths.  He can resurrect dead feelings and a dead relationship, too.

On another day we visited with a missionary couple going through a different set of difficulties.  Their problems are both financial and familial.  And on top of that, they have been ministering in the same town for several years now with no discernable results.  Europe, and especially Italy, can be a very difficult and discouraging mission field.  The challenge of ministering in a post-Christian environment is that most people feel that they know all about Christianity, and it didn’t work for them.  Of course, what didn’t work is institutionalized religion.  And when that institutionalized religion’s leader has pronounced evangelical Christianity as a “sect” and a personal relationship with Jesus as “dangerous,” that makes it even harder to break through with the truth.

Our friends told us of their grown kids’ struggles in their marriages, struggles with adulting, and struggles as new parents of triplets.  The mother wants to chuck the mission field and return home to help with her new grandchildren—very understandable.  However, she admits that she knows her help will only be partly accepted.  She is also aware that the financial difficulties will be multiplied if they go back home, when they are no longer doing ministry.  They both admitted that being in God’s will is more important than their personal desires.

So we prayed for them and blessed them to hear God’s voice clearly on this issue.  I left feeling more certain of a good outcome for this couple, and for their children.

Sometimes an encouragement ministry looks like a triage ward: bandaging the wounds with words of comfort and prayer.  I don’t know how either of these couples will fare.  I can only place them into the hands of the One who holds their future.  He will surely care for them no matter how things go.  God is good!

[1] See Husbands used by the Defeated Enemy.

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