I have a pile of journals and random pieces of paper with thoughts written on them from my time in MTS (ministry traineeship). It was a time of stress and anxiety, weakness and guilt – those are some of the feelings that stood out for me. Sometimes I go through that pile and read bits and pieces. I remember someone suggested My Seventh Monsoon – A Himalayan Journey of Faith and Mission, which I had bought but I’d been reading other things. It seemed like a good time to read it, so I picked it up.
It’s the book I’ve been taking with me to read in the bath. It’s one of those books that requires space and quiet, because there are so many lessons to learn. Naomi Reed is a missionary from Sydney, who travelled to Nepal with her husband to do physio work and share the gospel. At this stage, it’s not something Jeh and I plan on doing, but there are so many things that I relate to, and so many of the things she shares and Scripture she quotes that are relevant. Apart from her being a missionary, she’s a woman who wants to serve God with her whole life. She shares her struggle (and her husband’s) of their decision making on how to do that.
It’s a book written in hindsight. Looking back, she can see the many seasons God gave them as they served in India, Nepal, Sydney and Nepal again, the second time with children. In hindsight, she can see God’s working and timing, as they go through delays, loss (of unborn babies), and hardships, and comfort and security. Each chapter is dedicated to a season, and every chapter has something to say to every Christian, especially if you’re a woman (simple because women will understand her reflections better).
The lessons that stood out for me are ones about:
- worry and anxiety – they wanted to make sure they were doing enough hard work considering the people who were supporting them financially and in prayer, the daily struggles and the times of extreme stress through very hard personal times;
- materialism and having much – reflecting on the fact that it is harder to leave the more settled you are and the more you have. There is a story about a man who had benefited from the leprosy centre where Naomi’s husband worked. He was given a small, dirty room with a wooden bench for a bed, as his home. He was thankful that he had so much and gave thanks to God for everything that he had given him. I struggle to cull my wardrobe, let alone giving up the comfort of Sydney to serve in a Third World Country.
- gifts to serve and time – in a time when I don’t feel busy, it forced me to look at the opportunities I have and the gifts and strengths I have to serve, and what I am doing with them. That was a rebuke. Especially when she quoted the passage from Matthew 25 about the parable of the talents, the manager who went away and left his servants to ‘maximise the masters assets’ (reminding me of a conference I want on last year with the uni group). Am I maximising what God has given me? I don’t think I am.
- distractions – the lifestyle and culture in Nepal and Australia are so different. In Nepal, you cannot go anywhere without meeting people and talking to them; life is community based. In Sydney, life is private and time poor – we fill our lives with so many things, that it’s only when we feel like we have free time that we can make time for people. Scheduling someone in for tea requires juggling. But ministry is about people. The real work is with people. I’ve been rebuked about this as well, and will try harder to make people a priority.
- cross-cultural ministry – the Australian context doesn’t really lend itself to conversations about Jesus Christ, and I think it’s particularly hard to talk to Westerners about religion at all. I find it comes up much more easily with people from other cultures, and while working at the uni and having to talk to strangers about Christ, I actually really enjoyed conversations with Asians and Muslims, because they are open to talking about it, either because they have a faith that they would like to share, or because it’s something new for them that they are curious about. For Naomi and Darren, they went into the culture they were serving, so the context is different, but I think that’s helpful for thinking about how to share the gospel with people in general.
- suffering and loss – I haven’t suffered much in my life, I’ve been so protected and privileged. Sometimes I feel guilty and ill-equipped when people I know share their stories of difficulty, and wish that I knew what to do. But then I get scared that I will learn the hard way, because that’s generally the best way to help someone going through something hard – being there yourself. I’m sure those times will come. I hope that I am still able to give God thanks in those times, trust him, and see how they fit into God’s bigger picture.
- seasons – she learned a lot about the seasons of life and the lessons that can be learned in each one, and how the seasons are pieces of a bigger picture where God is working for his own glory. By the end of the book she had learned that learning from the seasons doesn’t have to wait until hindsight can see, but now she looks for the things that God is teaching her now, how she can be thankful, how she can serve. I’ve already seen the season I am in, and have compared it to the season of busyness before. I haven’t given thanks as much as I should. And I haven’t used the time that I have as well as I should, haven’t learned or reflected as much as I could. I need to stop waiting for opportunities, and instead, take the ones I have and make more opportunities to serve and grow in the way the season allows.