The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9
A testimony of God’s faithfulness in the life of a man whose plans were not coming to fruition.
Having spent the majority of my life in rural Missouri, where oak and lead keep the people fed, I only could dream that the call on my life to missions would be fulfilled. I had dreams of working in a remote village where there had not been white people in years–if ever. I wanted to be like many well know missionaries I had heard or read about only less known; isolated, suffering, but diligently serving the Lord that the people may be reached.
When I finally saw that the Lord was going to fulfill the very thing He had set in my heart for me to do, all those dreams, those plans, those musings came back to my mind. I wanted to be dropped in a remote village, live serving the Lord as long as possible and die in that land. The Lord, however, sent me for training that I might serve him better than I was prepared to at the time. During this training I had to work as a church planter. I was excited! There were five locations: one was a city and the others were small farming or fishing villages. So, the possibility of ending up in that city was small and I was thankful for that. I thought, “I am possibly the most prepared person to live in a remote location surviving off whatever was available. I can hunt, I can fish, I can improvise repairs and I am able to get by on very little.”
The day came for them to announce the teams and what village they would be working in. Village by village and person by person until myself and four others were left for the city. “Oh Lord,” I thought,”what are you doing? I hate cities, lots of people surrounding me, Ugh! Now, I have to deal with it in a foreign culture? Lord, I will need you everyday we are there. To calm me, to guide me, to help me speak and to understand.” The Lord did exactly that and through working in the city and a nearby town for two years the Lord taught me many lessons. Why? How is this work in this city going to help me with jungle living? How is living in a concrete house with running water going to prepare me for living some place that may not have either of those things? There are many ways that living and working in the city could prepare you for those things. Saying that the cross-cultural interaction of sharing the gospel is enough is a true statement. Sharing the gospel in a language and culture that is not your own is a small glimpse towards understanding the difficulty of missionary life and the most important task to accomplish. “Ok, I got it. Lord, send me to Tanzania, or Papua New Guinea, or the jungles of Brazil, I am done with this city living.”
I prayed and cried. I pushed and shoved, trying to get through doors the Lord hadn’t opened, but I wanted to be through them. I argued with myself and the Lord, where in the world, literally, I would take my family to serve Him. The Lord gave me some relief, He let me settle on two locations. This eased my mind and restlessness for awhile, but it was still unclear and unsettled. Once again, I was praying and crying, longing to serve with good friends and yet uneasy about serving with those friends. Why? What is going on? The options were an island in the South Pacific with all the things I had hoped and dreamed about (including a rainy season), or an island in the North Atlantic with a western culture (ugh) and a rainy year. So, I pushed for the island in the South Pacific with my friends. Why not? We made a good team and the island was fit for my dream.
“No!” “What?” “No!” You mean, Lord, that you are sending me, an Ozark hillbilly, to live in a western culture and more than likely in a city or at least a large town and it’s going to rain in some form or fashion, every day?! Catching my breath, I let it rest while I spent time praying and seeking counsel from older and wiser men. Confirmation that, yes, the Lord is calling you to Western Ireland. Whew! At least we know where the Lord is sending us, but now I have to rethink all my church planting thoughts and strategies that I had worked out from all the instruction I had received.
Then, the thought hit me like a barrel of bricks falling ten stories: the Lord sent me to the city to work because he was preparing me for working in a city environment. The Lord was preparing me for witnessing to neighbors, shop owners, barbers, bakers, and the random guy walking the sidewalk in front of your house. He was teaching me how to open my doors and bring people in to make relationships, to share with them, and to train them in the Word in my house. All these things I did not plan and I didn’t even know I needed to approach ministry this way and yet, the Lord was faithful to direct my steps that I might serve and glorify Him greatly in Western Ireland.
Why take the time to write a blog like this? In my mind there are two reasons for making this blog post. The first, is that it would encourage the body of Christ to remember. Remember that the Lord the one who knew you before the foundations were laid and is the one directing your steps. So, when life doesn’t seem to be going the way you planned it, thank the Lord because He is giving you something better than you can plan. Second, I want to encourage the body of Christ that there are unreached and unengaged peoples all over this world. So, if you’re willing to obey the Lord in reaching the nations, remember that He may not send you to the locale you dreamed of, but where He sends you is better for your sanctification and His glory.
Grace and Peace, D.E. Burgess II