It wears me down, sometimes, when I show up to our village church service to worship, only to be bombarded with everyone telling me their medical issues, financial struggles, and other problems they hope I will solve with money or some pills. They corner me after church, not even taking turns as they blurt out their issues.
“My daughter’s heart beats fast. What medicine is for that?”
“My eyes keep getting infected. Can you pay my way to Phnom Penh to see the doctor?”
“Check my blood pressure.”
“I don’t have an appetite. Do you have medicine for that?”
“Can you buy me a motorbike?”
“Can you give me some formula for my baby?”
Usually, these people come and sit dutifully through the service so that they can immediately swarm me after the closing prayer. Sometimes they don’t even wait that long.
On the one hand, I can’t blame them for their desperation, and I recognize that, in their situation, I could be the same way. After all, it never hurts to ask. And there is indeed a great need. My heart breaks for the burdens they carry. But it can be discouraging. Do they like me because of what they can get from me? Am I making a difference? If I left, would they miss me or just the free blood pressure checks? Lord, help me to see them through your eyes. You met and tended to throngs of needy people with not a complaint. These are your children. I want to help them, but even more, I want to show them your love.
This Sabbath, I went to church with a bit of apprehension, bracing myself for another onslaught of requests that I probably could not fulfill. But I ended up with a special Sabbath blessing. I felt like someone actually cared about me for me, and not just to bribe my goodwill.
We worship at a believer’s house just two doors down from the home of Chiruh, the older woman whom God healed from her infected diabetic foot wound. I try to visit her whenever possible, even though we have moved from that village. She has been faithful with her diabetes regimen and has stayed healthy and mobile. Today, her daughter Saly was there too. She noticed that I had a stiff neck; it had been plaguing me all week. Right away, she sat behind me and began massaging my neck and shoulders as Chiruh followed Osiah as he crawled around the balcony. Saly massaged my neck for probably 45 minutes while we caught up, laughed at Osiah’s antics, and had a genuine conversation. Sweat beaded up on Saly’s forehead, but she kept the massage going. How very thoughtful.
I felt ministered to through the act of service of a much-needed massage and genuine, mutually interesting conversation. After the tender attention I received, I realized that I had missed half of our believers’ small-group study. With renewed encouragement, I joined in for the last half.
Sometimes I get fatigued by all the requests and the knowledge of others’ innumerable struggles (something for which our private Western culture did not prepare me). I am sure many other missionaries can relate to this experience, but most of all, I know Jesus does.
I turn to Jesus with my every problem, day in and day out, but He never tires of listening to me. As missionaries of Christ, we might initially feel responsible for saving the world, but we have to continually remember that it is not our burden to bear. Only Jesus can bear that load.
We are still learning over and again not to rely on our own strength but to guide others toward Christ, the infinite source of strength.