I wrote this article about 14 years ago to encourage our missionaries during a huge loss, but it is probably even more applicable now, during this Covid-19 pandemic. Hope it encourages you too.
“But we don’t want to live in Sanford!”
That was the reaction of our entire family when we were asked to move to our mission’s home office in Sanford, Florida. Due to the wonders of technology, we had been working long-distance from Texas for several years. And during that time, our eager, thirsty roots had tunneled wholeheartedly into our life and ministry there and struck deep wells of joy.
But for more efficiency and better teamwork, my husband now needed to be in Florida. And three short months later, we and our four teenagers found ourselves standing in a tiny, old apartment in Sanford, our freshly-pulled roots still dangling. And it hurt terribly.
My 15-year-old daughter, whose sensitive roots were suffering most of all, shared a quote from Tony Campolo that she was clinging to: “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” I had never heard that before. She explained that when Jesus had died on Friday, everything looked grim and hopeless. His death made everything seem to be for nothing. But Sunday, the day He would rise, was coming. And that’s what she was trusting in – that Sunday would come for her too.
While our family was still in the pain and sacrifice of Friday, my hurting daughter was peeking out the window, waiting and watching for Sunday. And without realizing it, she was holding the curtain back for me.
But our family is certainly not alone when it comes to Fridays.
The most recent many of our missionaries can point to is being asked to move out of our tribal ministries in Venezuela—where some missionaries had served to the second and even third generation. It was in the truest sense for many, home.
Now it was like our displaced missionaries (and our organization by extension) were suddenly huddled together in an upper room, wondering what to do, what to feel, which way to go—and the ache of our loss was unbearable. Life as we knew it had suddenly been so altered, that we didn’t even know how to fully comprehend it. The grief was so intense that hope was often blurred from sight. Until we held the curtain back …
Our mission had served wholeheartedly in Venezuela for 60 years. It had been a privilege to work in twelve ethnic groups, nine with established churches, and to have completed five New Testament translations. Four other translations were in progress. In addition to waging a spiritual battle, we also fought against disease and poverty, and for education.
And none of that labor of love had been in vain. We could not have been doing anything better with our time and we would do it all over again.
New life will happen in Venezuela and in our hearts, no matter what the future holds. As Puinave leader José Cayupares declared, “The work in Venezuela will not come to an end if our brothers from New Tribes have to leave. No, the work in the jungle must double! We must have a plan to reach all of the jungle for Christ. No, brothers, this will not stop us!”
No grave or government can hold back the plans and purposes of God.
No matter how many Fridays come our way, there is always a Sunday waiting to follow. While some missionaries are leaving the field, new, bright-eyed, excited candidates are just coming on board, hoping to turn this world upside-down. And they just may.
While one field is closing, another is just opening.
While one tribal work may be ending, another is just beginning.
While some missionaries are being asked to leave, others are being invited to come.
And through it all, complex cultures and languages are being learned, churches are being planted, Bibles are being translated, and people all over the world are being saved and lives are being changed.
We can’t stumble over Friday when Sunday’s stone is just waiting to roll.
You may find yourself in a Friday situation right now. On a ministry level you may be struggling with language learning, co-worker tensions, leadership issues, governmental red-tape or tribal squabbles. On a personal level, you may be struggling with health issues, marriage or family problems, spiritual matters, emotions, educational needs, or financial stresses. Maybe you just feel all alone. The disciples did too. If you are lost in the bleakness and misery of Friday, hold on. Fridays don’t last forever. In one way or another, the surprise and joy of Sunday will find you wherever you are.
And it found me in that little apartment in Sanford, Florida. I was still in the middle of unpacking and struggling to make sense of it all. Then I happened to look out the kitchen window …
Our home office sits right on Lake Monroe. The sun was just going down behind the water, making it sparkle. The sky, lake and palm trees were all this amazing mixture of pink, orange and navy. It was so unexpected and very beautiful. I took a deep breath and leaned on the sill as this old, small apartment shared its secret treasure. The sunset seemed to wrap its warmth and beauty around my doubt and pull it gently down behind the horizon. Belief came twinkling on with the street lights. And suddenly, I didn’t want to live anywhere else.
As with the disciples, Christ found a way to come bursting through my wall. He’ll find a way through yours. Sunday’s coming.