He was not your average missionary. He was highly motivated and sure of his calling. He was fully committed and willing to make any sacrifice to fulfill the mission. Both he and the church had high expectations when he was commissioned with another worker and sent out as a team.
God certainly did provide, but life on the mission field was tough. The work was hard and living conditions challenging. His work in unfamiliar cultural settings meant he was always learning and cautious, lest he offended those he was trying to reach. He soon discovered the heart-wrenching pain of pouring out your heart to people you have grown to love, only to see them reject the gospel you preach.
On top of these stressors, there was also the strain of trying to labor together with other missionaries who were equally driven and convinced in their methods and strategies. In his second term on the field, he experienced such severe conflict with his own teammate and long-time friend, they eventually split and were both left with painful scars. Other teammates came and went. Some abandoned him and a few attacked his reputation and actively opposed his ministry. It was easy to feel disappointed, disillusioned, and alone.
But God blessed his ministry. He saw some fruit and had quite a few spiritual children. Churches began to form and multiply. That’s when the missionary discovered a brand-new kind of pressure. He was constantly burdened for the new churches and their leaders. It took a heavy toll on him every time they faced a crisis or wrestled with a theological issue. Finally, the trauma of all of these things became more than this veteran cross-cultural worker could bear. Growing stress, physical weariness, declining health, constant spiritual warfare, relational scars and feelings of loneliness threatened to overwhelm and sideline this man of God.
That’s when the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3) who “comforts the downcast” (2 Cor. 7:6) showed Himself faithful! God encouraged and refreshed the apostle Paul so much that he not only returned to effective missionary duty, but he did so rejoicing and praising God. So what did God use to refresh and rejuvenate His servant? To find the answer to that question, all we need to do is read Paul’s letters. In 2 Cor. 7, Paul mentioned how Titus coming for a visit at a particularly difficult time encouraged and cheered him on. Not only did Titus show up, but he also brought news that the believers in Corinth were praying and longing to see Paul. How encouraging it must have been to hear that!
In Phil. 2, Paul shared how encouraged and uplifted he was when Epaphroditus came on a short-term member care trip, bringing news and resources from the believers in Philippi. The rest of the letter to the Philippians is filled with descriptions of the “partnership” (Phil. 1:5) between the believers in Philippi and Paul the missionary. They constantly expressed their affection for each other as they wrote letters back and forth. The Philippians made it clear to Paul that, though they were separated by many miles, they were with him in the ministry and constantly looking for ways to labor with him to advance the cause of Christ. With partners like these, Paul never needed to feel alone or abandoned as he labored in difficult places.
These partners were constantly advocating for both Paul and for the ministry as they lifted each other up in prayer. Both sides of the partnership were encouraged when they told each other how they were praying. Finally, Paul’s partners were constantly praying about how they could come alongside and assist him in the ministry. This included sending books, funds for ministry, and even sending people short-term to help in the work.
So, what about the folks that God is sending out from The Church at Brook Hills? A couple of things are certain. They have a deep sense of God’s call and a willingness to make sacrifices. Like Paul, they also need the church partnering with them. For that purpose, Brook Hills establishes A-Teams for every cross-cultural worker sent out for more than one year. A-Teams help the church do all of the things that Paul’s partners did. The A-Team expresses their affection as they communicate through email, FaceTime, text, etc. They meet regularly to pray for this missionary and the ministry. They send resources and take short-term trips to help with ministry and to care for the sent-out one.
You too can fill a critical role in the Great Commission by serving on a Brook Hills A-Team. You may turn out to be the Titus or Epaphroditus that God uses to encourage and refresh one of His servants who has been praying for the God of all comfort to show up. Contact the Global Team for information on our A-Team network at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob F. serves on the Global Team primarily by helping to prepare and care for sent-out ones from The Church at Brook Hills. He and his wife Suzi have been members at The Church at Brook Hills for seven years, and prior to that served for 25 years in Japan.