Dear Future Goers, and to the saints throughout the world,
Reflection is a powerful tool. Often times, it is difficult to see how God is actively and presently working in our lives. This is especially true during the busy times, the stressful times, the painful times. But still, He has created creatures that He loves. And He created us to think, reflect, and pause regularly. I’ve been “off the field” for just under two months now. And the transition, as expected, and warned, has not been smooth sailing. But, by the Grace of God, He has been, and still is, using this transition to draw me deeper into his presence.
I started reading these letters, written by other Goers, almost as soon as I hit the field. And from that point, I began wondering what I would eventually write to future Goers. I’ve had many ideas; some even received a brief journal note so as not to forget. Some topics included deeply impactful personal stories, the role of the global church, the importance of prayer (especially at the start of language learning). However, none of these felt right. So, I waited. Finally, after these regular times of pausing to stop, think, and reflect, a major theme from my time in Mexico began to surface. This came from my regular quiet times with the Lord, from reading different books and articles, and close friends and family asking me sincere and heartfelt questions.
I noticed that it came up in various ways. Some wiser and more experienced missionaries told me the importance of being “rooted deeply”. Several books I read said something along the lines of “we minister out of who we are” or “ministering out of the state of our being”. And finally, one illustration from lifelong missionaries in Columbia showed that if we are going to be “pouring ourselves” into the world, into others, we need to be refilling ourselves with the Gospel. My synopsis of these points comes down to one word. And my letter to future Goers will be one of dependence.
Jesus was clear in conveying the importance of dependence. Dependence on him, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. In John, chapter 15, in just ten verses Jesus reminds us 9 times to “remain in him”. All of John 15 is beautiful, but the verses that really help me grasp the importance of dependence are verses 1 through 14. In these verses we see that Jesus is the true vine. And we are the branches. Already from this simple metaphor we can see the dependence and reliance branches have on the vine. Also, Jesus is the true vine. I believe there are other vines you could attach yourself to, apart from Jesus. Many in the bible refer to these as idols- and they are deadly. The Father is the gardener. He trims the branch, ridding it of the parts that bear no fruit and pruning the ones that do. Do not be mistaken, this is a painful experience. We are attached to many other vines, and the process of being cut off can be a grueling one, the deeper our attachment. We see that a branch can bear no fruit apart from the vine, and in case you missed the metaphor Jesus even breaks it down for us, “neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me”. Verse 5 is largely a restatement of this idea. Verse 6 is a strong reminder of the consequences that come with living under idolatry or apart from Jesus and his gospel. I encourage you, spend some time prayerfully reading these passages- regularly. It is a passage I frequently visit. Are you attached to the true vine? Do you desire to be?
So… great. You may be thinking. I need to be dependent on Jesus. I need to remain in him. What the heck does that look like? Well, let’s allow the text to enlighten us. Like so much of the New Testament, the Gospel implications often follow the Gospel truths. Verses 1 through 8 are an explanation of a beautiful truth. We can do nothing apart from Jesus. Verses 9 through 17 then explain how we remain in him. We are commanded to “remain in his love”, “obey his commands”, “Love each other as he has loved us”, “do what I command”, “go and bear much fruit” and finally, “love each other”.
Future Goers, maybe you are about to hit the field, maybe you are thinking about applying, maybe you are feeling so overwhelmed thinking about changing cultures. Whatever the case, remain in his love. Nourish yourself. Spend time with your home team, giving thanks to God for the community He has given you. Walk through your favorite nature spots, marveling at his creation. Read a book that blows your mind about who God is, and what Jesus continuously does for you. Spend time in prayer- deep, sincere, heartfelt prayer. Immerse yourself in the text. Memorize scripture. Let God’s Word drive you to Him. Because we will minister out of who we are. And we must fill ourselves back up the with Gospel. Jesus loves us, as much as the Father loves him. And we are called to love others as Jesus has loved us. This is no easy task, and utterly impossible apart from him. Remain in him. Attach yourself to the true vine.