Part 21: Mula Kahit Saan Hangang Saan Man
Mula Kahit Saan Hangang Saan (From Anywhere to Everywhere)
It felt a little strange to be flying from Lusaka to Johannesburg to Hong Kong to Cebu, the first time I had taken this route to get to the Philippines for our final LeadersFormation courses and graduation. Participating in this church leaders training hadn’t been in my job description nor any communicated expectations when I accepted the role of Director of Church Care at West Highland almost 8 years ago now. Yet with my missionary heart and experience, it was an easy ‘yes’ when Pastor John asked me to join the team in the second of this five-year equipping project. With each consecutive year, we moved from teacher to facilitator to coach to encourager in our roles and watched with delight as many of these men and women caught on to the methodology and stepped into key leadership roles amongst their peers. This final study, which focused on the Pastoral Epistles to Timothy and Titus, highlighted much of what this partnership had been all about – ‘what you have received from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men and women who will be qualified to teach others also’ (2 Timothy 2:2, slightly revised).
This is missions – ‘as you go, wherever you go, disciple the nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe every instruction I have given you’ (Matthew 28:19,20 also slightly revised). When Sandy and I first fully submitted our lives to ‘anything, anywhere’ in terms of God’s leading and using us for his kingdom purposes, we had no idea where that blank cheque of open service might take us. These two country kids had never really been anywhere other than a few holidays south of the border, and not even experienced a short-term mission trip. In the fall of 1990, with a 3 and 1 year old in tow, and expecting our third, we headed off to Africa, young, naïve yet wanting to be obedient and found faithful and somehow to make a lasting impact for eternity and the testimony of God’s Name. Now looking back on over 30 years of ministry, God has opened doors and given us the privilege of serving Him on 5 continents in grassroots ministry, as well as training students, missionaries and church leaders for service at home and around the world. While God had placed certain people groups on our heart early on, he has opened our eyes more fully to his heart for all nations and either brought to us, or us to, so many that we never had even in our imagination at the start.
Before we went to Zambia, back in the late ‘80s, we had the joy of discipling folk from Africa in our little church family in west Toronto. In the late 20teens, we had the joy of discipling folk from China in our West Highland church family. My great-grandparents had been missionaries to China and I felt somehow God had taken our family full circle, 4 generations later, as we were a part of the harvest of these dear ones whom God so loved. Now back in Zambia, we are, amongst other opportunities, having the privilege of encouraging a Chinese church that is seeking to win their own in a foreign land as well as having a living witness among the national population. And our little church fellowship here, along with our missionary team scattered throughout this African nation, were a part of partnering through prayer with our LeadersFormation team serving in the Philippines over these last weeks of ministry there. This is God’s family, after God’s heart, committed to seeing the lost found and lives transformed with the Good News of Jesus. And this is God at work, not only through us, but in us, making us new, reflecting his nature more and moving us into greater obedience for his glory.
I honestly never had Asia on my heart or mind 30 years ago. Just the other day I was sitting in a little coffee shop called Bo’s in a mall in Cebu, offering a listening ear to a young Filipino lady tell me her story and struggle and speaking spiritual truth and counsel back into her life a week after we had the joy of seeing her come to faith in Jesus. That hadn’t been a part of my script as I thought and prayed about this final trip to the Philippines to train church leaders. That hadn’t dawned on me as a possibility as we prayed through our decision to return to Zambia and landed here some seven months ago. Yet this was exactly what God had in mind for me, for us, for his church, as this mystery of his plan for Jew and Gentile and those from every tribe, language, people and nation has unfolded (Revelation 7:9). This is God’s heart, and therefore ours, as He opens the doors in these last days for mission ministry from anywhere to everywhere.
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. (John 4:34-36)