As we drive past the swirling colors of an Indian market and board our plane for the flight back to Thailand, I think about all the many things about this job that I will really miss. There are the connections with our missionaries and the people they work with. There are the continual surprises of living and working in a different culture. There is the gracious, helpful attitude of the people of Thailand and the grandeur of the mountains of north India. Has it been easy to serve as AFM field directors? No! Has it been worth it? Absolutely! We have experienced and learned a great deal as we have watched God work in our projects. Here are a few of the things we have learned:
1. Being vulnerable opens doors. A few weeks ago I was attempting to purchase a replacement toner cartridge for our printer, a discontinued model. The store didn’t have a compatible cartridge, and I was trying to determine if I could order one or find a place that would put new toner in my empty cartridge. My failures to communicate with the Thai-speaking shopkeeper were observed by a compassionate bilingual shopper who stepped in to help. How often we miss connecting with people because we don’t want to be vulnerable and ask for help. Never underestimate the power of being a humble learner who is willing to be vulnerable.
2. Despite news reports that focus on chaos, dysfunction and hatred, there are many wonderful people around the world. Sensitive, thoughtful individuals assisted us countless times in our travels. Yes, this world is blighted by evil inspired by Satan, but God is still here, and His influence is everywhere. The Great Controversy theme provides perspectives on evil and suffering, and it is our privilege to share the hope of God’s promises to bring an end to sin and suffering.
3. Moving beyond our comfort zones provides amazing opportunities to learn from others. We have lived among and worked with people whose worldview is entirely different from ours. As we make a concerted effort to understand the worldview of those around us and take the time to foster genuine friendships, the Holy Spirit guides us in effectively sharing the liberating message of the gospel. Our minds expand, and our faith grows.
4. All successful projects require the support of a team. We have been with AFM for six years and have been supported by our home office with training, accounting, publication in Adventist Frontiers, mailing and countless other tasks that are crucial but seldom recognized. Our supporters have faithfully prayed for our protection from physical and spiritual attack, for wisdom and insight from the Holy Spirit, and for our physical strength and endurance. Faithful donors have enabled us to remain in the field. As we worked together with our career missionaries and supported them, we have received insights, encouragement and care. We owe each of you a huge debt of thanks that we can only repay by attempting to apply what we have learned and to share the good news entrusted to us with as many people as possible.
It has been an amazing five years. But the pace has been relentless, and it is time for Janella and me to slow down. No more 4 a.m. trips to the airport. No more 16-hour taxi rides through the mountains. No more hard Asian beds. The time has come to say a fond farewell and move into the next phase of God’s calling on our lives. Through this transition, we pray for the insight and ability to set aside our personal agendas and open our lives to the incredible opportunities the Holy Spirit has in store for us. We hope to be intentional in applying what we have learned, and we pray for wisdom and insight in sharing this knowledge as we to minister to others.