The title of this article may sound strange to some of you but others will identify with it completely. Yesterday morning Dawn and I attended “our” home church’s early service at Chapel Hill BC. This was the first Sunday morning service that we have been in since our return from the field. The worship was good and my pastor and friend, Dale Denning, did a great job preaching. This was a nice service… yet, somehow I felt very detached from what was happening. We were just a couple sitting in a large group of people. We were not recognized publicly and many in the crowd had no clue who we were. Please do not misunderstand that last comment. I am not suggesting that there should have been a “big to do” about our presence there. I am simply trying to honestly relate to you what “our” feelings and perspective is concerning our return to life at home. This will make more sense as you read further into this article.
After the morning worship, we wandered down the halls to meet with our old Sunday school class. We bumped into a handful of folks who hurried past us and said “good to see ya back,” etc. We even got a hug or two… which was nice, I must say. When we found our classroom, we were greeted warmly by some dear friends and took notice of the new faces in the class. I was glad to see that the class has stayed strong and has grown. I must confess that to this point, I was feeling very strange… not knowing exactly how to fit in or even if we did fit in anymore. However… as the class began, I was snapped back into reality and spiritual focus by our teacher asking for the class to pray for one of our members who has struggled greatly with a surgery and subsequent serious issues with infection and pain. He was sitting there with his leg outstretched, propped up, and in obvious discomfort. Our teacher asked us to gather around him and place our hands on him as we prayed for the Lord to comfort and heal his physical issue. I was asked to lead the prayer and I was reminded that God expects us to be ready and willing to be used… no matter where we are and in diverse situations. It is a matter of simple obedience. This is a concept that I have touted time and time again over the years. So, why in the world would I have to be reminded about this again at this point in my life? Quite honestly, it is because we all come into situations with certain expectations and preconceived ideas. Yes, you do to. We tend to get our eyes off of the Author of the book of our life and try writing the pages of the story with our own ideas and intricate plot twists. So… there I was… asked to pray for a dear brother who was in desperate need of it. I led the prayer and I immediately felt brought back into line with the Spirit of God and things which are actually important in this life. It is a privilege to be a minister for the Lord Jesus and share in the lives of our bothers and sisters. It really shouldn’t matter if I am standing in rural West Tennessee or in urban Brno, Czech Republic. Amen. May the Father honor our prayer for this dear brother and give him the healing that he so desires.
Now, let me try to tie all of these pieces together for you and explain about the “Man Without a Country” remark. This is what I meant by the title… just a few days ago, I was sitting in a massive conference in Greece. I listened to wonderful stories of how God is moving in the world in various places. I also listened to discussions about strategy and the direction of our organization, the IMB. Honestly, many of those talks did not include nor affect me since we would soon be leaving the field. Moving ahead about a week… I sat in two separate churches wondering how and if I fit into what they had planned for their strategy to reach the lost in the area where they have influence and serve. I realized that the things which the local church has been doing did not include me. “I” was the one who left “them” to follow God into missionary service. Yes, this was God directed, for sure but I took myself out of the local environment and moved far far away. So the obvious happened. I was disengaged from local service and engaged into foreign service. Now, here I sit… no longer a part of the strategy of the IMB and not yet a part of any local strategy to reach the lost. A man without a country, sort of. So, there you have it… this is where we are at the moment. I hope this little article makes some sense to you now. If you can, put yourself in our shoes and consider how you would feel if you were in these circumstances. If I could ask you to pray for some specific things, it would be as follows:
- pray that God will allow us to have a time of relaxing and peace to rest in Him and patiently seek His will for our future (whew, that’s a big request)
- next, pray that He will indeed prepare a place of service for us in just the right place here in the states… also pray that we will be bold enough to follow Him to wherever that might be
- pray that in the mean time, we will simply be obedient to serve where we see opportunities arise in a local context
God bless you and thank you for caring about us and the future of our ministry. We love you in the Lord.