It’s been a rough year, not the least of which has been my being ill for the past 2 months. At first I thought it was just stress-related, but eventually it turned out to be a parasite and some other rather serious issues that my doctor said would’ve put me in the hospital in the US! Pretty embarrassing for a nurse to get snuck up on like this. My point is not to write a negative feel-sorry-for-me newsletter, but rather to show how God can use the tough times to accomplish some of His best works in and through us. In us by teaching us, through us by using us.
Naturally with feeling chronically sick, without energy to keep up my usual pace of life, satan took advantage to discourage me, make me doubt my calling to Uganda, making me feel small and useless. What am I doing here, living by myself in a rural African village? Why am I raising chickens and cows? I read missions blogs and see all the writers have wonderful Bible degrees – my degree is in nursing. Missionaries start churches, Bible colleges and live in cities with modern conveniences. I teach in villages church,Bible and other classes on simple business to mostly illiterate people.
But early on in my illness, God gave me a verse that was how He spoke to Moses when he faced impossible circumstances, literally trapped between a rock and a hard place, as we say today (between Pharaoh and the Red Sea): Exodus 14:14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace. I took it probably the same way Moses did, “ Ok … God will fight my battles, and I need to keep my mouth shut!” So God has been fighting my battles and I have done my best to stay quiet! And as so often happens, I am beginning to see, as I have at other times, how I am indeed in tune with things He is doing in other parts of the world through His Holy Spirit…
This week I read about the Chinese ministry Back To Jerusalem and their work in Iran. In these impossible places in the 10/40 Window they have developed a model for missions called Business as Mission. Contrary to the American way of separating sacred and secular, they do not quarantine religion and faith from secular life. They do not raise funds to start a business to make profit and to hopefully promote the gospel; they practice business as a calling and ministry in its own right, a manifestation of the Kingdom of God. It is part of a new trend among businesses in Asia where businesses owned and operated as true legitimate businesses are willing to invest and take a risk on mission opportunities, not as a return on a financial investment. Business makes inroads for the gospel by building relationships with local people and making a difference for Jesus Christ.
The Chinese Christians in Iran are not traditional missionaries trained in seminaries and elite Bible schools, they are uneducated farmers and street vendors, and they operate in market places all around the world. They are not involved in full-time ministry with monthly letters to their donors to give updates about progress. They have cut their teeth on the hardships of life as they happen on the streets. These businesses blend in with the local environments. As Paul supported himself as a tent maker, such businesses even now can provide support needed for missionaries to adopt their target country as their own so they can share the gospel in dark regions of the world.1
Having had a mostly rural life in the US, it was natural for me to jump into the agricultural life of Africa, starting with some demonstration projects to increase quality and production of crops. Being the first white person to live in a village here, people were amazed that I grew better crops, so they watched and learned. People came to Jesus as a result of village level health classes that taught things like prevention and cure for malaria, dispelling the belief that people died from being bewitched.
I have made no profits from our small businesses, but profit has never been my intention. This is where donations come in; they support my projects as my African friends learn things, such as not decreasing livestock food costs to increase profits (which decreases quality and quantity). Living and working with them, I learn about African thinking and what so often keeps them in dire poverty, and then work to change the thinking over time, by example. I have designed a wordless budget for the illiterate ones and over time, teach them how to record all expenses, figure their unit costs, make profits (some day) and to make cost projections. And slowly the new ideas begin to take hold.
Most Ugandans cannot attend Bible college. Most do not attend churches. But all of them must farm to survive. Uganda is the most rural country in the world, with 83% of its people living in rural areas, eking out a living. So when I have a rough time that makes me question my purpose and life in Africa, God is faithful to send me assurance when I need it! I look back on and relive the blessed times like when I sat on the floor all day with my neighbor weeping on my lap when her 14-year-old son was killed (I had delivered him in the local clinic when he was born). She was a Muslim, now over time, she has become a Catholic like her husband, and when she prays, she’s shy, but prays so beautifully in the name of Jesus.
I am currently working with a family that is starving and in a hopeless situation because a brother sold off all the family land. You can’t farm when you have no land! We looked into leasing some land for them but “rich” people are grabbing up all the land to farm pineapples, which have a good export market now. They cannot pay their kids’ school fees and as a result, even though the older kids must walk several miles to and from their school, the school will not feed them any lunch. A seemingly impossible situation, but we are meeting later this week to put our heads together and pray for what God will show us to do. I prefer to find root causes and deal with them, rather than giving habitual charity and causing dependency.
The central story of the gospel is God the Father sending, God the Son going, and God’s world needing. When we are sent to dangerous places, we enter the very heart of Father God. We breathe the Spirit of God through our hands and feet and hearts and lips to a world that desperately needs the healing, restoring grace, love, and truth of God. 2
1 Jesus In Iran, Eugene Bach, pp. 180-184
2 Why God Calls us to Dangerous Places, Katie McCord, p. 147