I leave Africa soon. My two months here have gone by very quickly! Thank you for your prayers! It is an honor to be partnered with you in walking out the Great Commission in North Uganda, South Sudan, Northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and ,Lord willing, regions even northward.
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
I am especially grateful for a godly wife who also has a passion to spread the fame of King Jesus where He is not known. She is my best friend and the love of my life! Below she shares her heart in our pursuit to live out our lives in this region of the world for God’s glory.
Moyo 2013—or BUST!
By Carol Lee
I have been thinking about writing what’s on my heart for quite some time, but it wasn’t until recently that I saw how important it was to do so. So many people have expressed concerns and questions that deserve an accounting. This will also, I hope, be more than an accounting—a call to boldness and a change in priorities and focus.
My hope is that in writing, I will answer these questions about our going to Africa:
1) Where does Carol stand on this plan? We know Jacob is “gung-ho”, but what about Carol?
2) Aren’t you going to miss your family? Aren’t you giving up too much?
3) Isn’t it dangerous? And why can’t you just send money and resources instead of exposing yourself to danger?
Question One: Is Carol on board?—YES!!
For me, it has not been so much a question of whether or not we should or should not go, but when and where. The general commission to every believer from Christ Himself is bold and clear and it has always been a part of my understanding of the “normal” Christian life—that is, to be sent out, or at least to have some sense of mission as you live life, whether it is here or abroad. But, I have always had a special “amen” in my heart to missions abroad.
After all, I am the grandchild of Henry and Frieda Mayer and the child of Joel and Lillian Mayer, all Lutheran Missionaries to India! I was born there and lived there until I turned 18, when I returned to the U.S. to go to college. I met Jacob here in Seguin. He was actively living out a mission-directed life. We married within 9 months of meeting. Jacob and I had every intention of spending our lives as missionaries to India. We moved there six months after we were married (with me being pregnant with our firstborn, Joshua). We sold or gave away almost everything, packed up and moved. If we had been able to get visas and the continued support of a local church or mission board, we probably would have stayed there indefinitely. When we returned to the States, we became very involved in our church, Lifegate, which also had a love for and support of missionaries. “Missions” had been an integral and “normal” part of our lives and priorities and interests.
Only as we look back (with 20/20 vision) can we see the wise, Fatherly plan in keeping us here all these years—maturity, growth in our understanding and experience of the local church and the importance of being sent and supported, not only financially, but in prayer and love and partnership. In the interim of 31 years, we have raised three wonderful children (absolutely by the grace of God) and have become grandparents. Our experience here in Seguin, in the context of our local church, Lifegate, has been service and use of our gifts, growth in depth of understanding of and obedience to God’s Word, friendship and family love and now, very importantly, Lifegate’s very enthusiastic sending of us to Africa, which has been a stretching experience for the whole church.
There is no doubt that Jacob’s vision and passion is the “spearhead” of our being sent out (sharp, weighty, poised and ready). The specific calling upon Jacob’s life is unequivocal. His passionate pursuit of preaching and living out the Gospel in mission in Africa and his constancy in pursuing it are the fruit of seeds God planted in his heart from the very moments after his conversion. And, it seems to me, this has been widely recognized by all who look on, including and especially me. To a large degree, because Jacob is called, so am I. Wherever he goes, I go; wherever he stays, I stay; and his God is my God! But, of course, it is more than that.
Question Two: Aren’t we giving up too much (i.e. family, comforts and all)?
We are in an intense tug-of-war in our hearts between the “foolishness” of leaving houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, as Jesus said in Matthew 19:29, and the accepted cultural norm and ideal of safety/comfort/convenience. Three decades of living in the glorious “bubble” of the American dream has ensured that this foolish “leaving” business would not be an easy commandment to obey. We are giving up much, and it will be painful and difficult!
What is shaping the outcome of this tug of war is the perspective that we receive through God’s Word (and we have no other hope by which to win):
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10: 37-39, ESV)
” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30, ESV)
On the other hand, we are the beneficiaries of technology and development, which allow us to “see” and hear from our loved ones across the miles, unlike those missionaries in times past who did not know if they would ever see their loved ones again, or at least had to wait for weeks and months to receive a letter.
Question Three: Isn’t it dangerous? Why can’t you just send money and resources over there?
It’s amazing what we can assent to in our heads that has no true bearing on our hearts until God’s convicting and calling in a particular decision or direction becomes real and personal. Then we are truly tested as to what we believe. God has, through His word and through His people, and through experience, been preparing me all along to come to terms with and be gripped by the truth that being a disciple of Christ involves cross-bearing, leaving family, hardship and suffering, as well as great joy and comradeship in Christ and with Christ, and the hope of glory. It has only been recently, though, that this truth has become beautiful to me that God actually has a design and plan for our suffering as we are obedient to “GO!”
John Piper’s “Live to Die” sermon ( http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/live-to-die ) has been most instrumental in exposing my fears, my unbelief and my lack of perspective. With the precision and healing of a surgeon’s knife, his message has cut into my trusting in and clinging to earthly security, comfort and pleasure. His message has transplanted in me a heart that can see and delight in something far superior: the worth and glory of God. We have an awesome privilege in being called children of God. Our Savior suffered and was inconvenienced and left the glory of heaven to become like us in every way. So now, through His death, resurrection and ascension we are able to participate in His glory and His joy!
Piper calls us to a radical obedience with a readiness to suffer and “to take risks that would look foolish and be foolish if there were no resurrection from the dead.” He talks of embracing suffering as a strategy and that God has a design and a purpose in suffering as we take the message of salvation to those for whom Christ died.
“For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” (Hebrews 2:10, ESV)
“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12: 2, ESV)
No suffering is “worth it” unless we can see something on the other side of it that is of greater value than the suffering itself. This carries over into so many things: an athlete who suffers through training to win the race, a dieter who suffers through the denial of craving to shed those excess pounds, the parent who sees through to the other side of daily discipline and tedious and persistent training to the joy of the peaceful fruit of righteousness in his child. God does not ask us to suffer for no reason, but for the joy of displaying Christ and watching Him do His redemptive work in the lives of those we want to reach.
“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (I Corinthians 15:19, ESV)
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (II Corinthians 4: 16-18, ESV)
Another truth which John Piper’s message helped me see and treasure comes from Colossians 1:24-29, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church….” John Piper explains that passage in this way: Christ suffered affliction in bringing His salvation to us. Jesus is no longer present on the earth except through the Church, His body. The delivery of Christ’s saving message in person to those for whom Jesus paid the price will bring us afflictions in various forms and degrees, but we can rejoice in those afflictions because He has chosen His love for us to be most greatly displayed in His suffering on our behalf and when we suffer great and small things in order to bring that love to others.
I was asked the question, “Why can’t you just send money and resources over there? Why do you have to go to someplace that is dangerous for you?” My answer to that question finds its confidence in this truth: “Jesus made a joyful offering for the world and wants that offering delivered in person—or embodied!” (John Piper, “Live to Die”) It’s not hard to understand; anyone of us would rather receive love in person than merely in a letter or some gift. We don’t expect our children to learn all about life from a manual. There is no more effective way to produce godliness in our children than when we embody the truth, and teach the truth as we walk alongside of our children. That is how God means for us to teach and reach the world. And in doing so, we will encounter suffering in various forms.
So, am I a masochist? NO! I have no death wish or a desire to suffer. I am, by nature, a wimp. I love my creature comforts; I love our family (both biological and spiritual). I love being able to do things conveniently and at my whim and in the safety and orderliness of America! BUT…I am learning to love the command of Christ and the glory of Christ more! We really do feel it, Jacob and I…the pending pain of separation from family and friends, the loss of comforts, the potential of danger and the worst that our imaginations can offer us! Thanks be to God for that phrase, “for the joy set before Him!” Because of that we can see over our suffering to a greater weight of glory beyond all comparison—the bringing of many sons to glory.
This is an on-going transformation of my thinking and perspective…a work in progress! And it’s not a haphazard transformation, but something I am doing intentionally.
1Peter 4:1-2 states, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”
Having the right kind of thinking…taking every thought captive…is not a playful exercise, but a strategy of war. I want God’s thoughts to win in my mind and I want His truth to shape my feelings and hopes and confidence. Right now I am listening my way through sermons ( http://www.desiringgod.org/ ) that John Piper has preached on Suffering, Courage and Boldness, and the Mission of the Church. I am reading stories of fellow Christians who have, for the joy set before them, endured some kind of cross or other. It helps me see how God will come through for me, not now, as I imagine suffering or trials, but then, when I am actually going through them. It builds faith in me to trust God for future grace.
I sincerely hope that what I have written will not only answer your questions, but will challenge your own beliefs. I pray that it will embolden you to live courageously and joyfully—in a manner worthy of the calling you have received in Christ.
This word from Carol is very encouraging to me. I can testify that what she has written comes from the depths of her heart. Our discussions and prayers have been and are centered around our desire to know Christ and to make Him known, especially among those who do not have access to good news of Jesus life, death, resurrection and ascension!
Please continue to pray for us in this pursuit!