“So what are you doing after this?” She innocently asked.
I found myself in a familiar place, one that I’m starting to get more used to. “I don’t really know,” I replied.
I explained how I had planned to go to Burkina Faso for a week before going to the United States for my annual furlough. I gave her a quick briefing on how the security situation in Burkina Faso, especially towards foreigners and Christians, has deteriorated over the past few years. Some more recent events and attacks have occurred in the area that I would be traveling through, which put a pretty abrupt end to my plans for a visit. I tried to find another road, but rainy season makes for bad roads, and not having a private vehicle makes for dependence on undependable public transport or taxis, which lead to crazy high costs and difficult logistics since taxis can’t cross borders and I needed to travel across three countries. Long story short, I did everything I could to make this trip to Burkina Faso happen. But it just wasn’t gong to happen.
After I finished my rant, I sighed and ended up back where I started. “So I don’t know. I don’t know what’s next.”
I’m not just thinking about my one week visit in October that got cancelled by terrorism; I’m talking about what all this means for the future of missionaries in Burkina Faso, and if I will even be numbered among them.
My friend responded without missing a beat, “Sometimes God breaks our plans. And then he gives us something better.”
Like many things, ideas about security and safety for missionaries fall on a spectrum. The people on one end of the extreme make safety into an idol, as if the protection of our own lives is of utmost priority. The people on the other extreme would walk directly into any danger no matter what for the sake of “great faith.” Neither one is really Biblical.
Jesus said to expect persecution, but he never said to seek after it. He told us to take up our cross and follow him, but he also told his disciples to pass on from cities where they were not accepted. Sometimes Paul walked right into a city knowing he would be persecuted there; other times he avoided places because of the risk. Daniel walked into the lions’ den and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace. Yet others like David and the spies in Jericho had to either hide or flee for their lives.
What counts is finding that balance in the middle. What counts is valuing the gospel more than our own lives or own ambitions. What counts is seeking after God’s voice of guidance. Sometimes, we will have to count the cost, absolutely trust him, and obey even if our lives are at risk. Other times, we need to remove ourselves from danger for the sake of the gospel. Wisdom is knowing when to do which, and how to distinguish God’s direction, for only listening to God’s voice will give clarity to these very gray-lined decisions.
I love reading Acts and learning about how the Spirit compelled Paul to go some places and prevented him from going to other places. I want that for me, too, and yet I wonder if that’s what God is doing and I’m resisting it.
For I want to go to Burkina but it seems like he has closed all the doors. I even tried to push a few side doors open, but they wouldn’t budge. The great news is, the gospel will go forth in Burkina Faso with or without me. Praise God that the kingdom of Jesus doesn’t depend on my presence!
And I realize, on a more personal level, that the decision isn’t about how much I love or am committed to Burkina Faso. The decision is about how much I love and am committed to Jesus. If he were to ask me to leave Burkina and move somewhere else, would I be happy just to follow him even if it meant giving up something precious to me, even something as wonderful as a missionary life and ministry that he originally gave me?
I admire Hannah so much, for she wept and pleaded for a child, and then when God finally gave her a precious son, Samuel, she gave him right back to the Lord. I want to be like that.
Maybe it’s not fair that I say “I don’t know” to what’s next. Because really, I do. God has given me just enough for the next steps, and nothing more. I know I’m not going to Burkina in October, but instead straight home to be with my family for a couple months. Then, I will follow where he leads. Perhaps God will bring me back to Burkina Faso to continue ministry despite the growing presence of enemies. If so, praise his name. Or perhaps I will not be able to return. If so, praise his name. For the church will go onward. In fact, they just may be in a place where they need less missionaries and more persecution. That way, they will pick up the baton, rise to the occasion, and experience the power of the Holy Spirit in a New Testament-like way.
So see there, I do know what’s next. God is breaking my plans, and what he is going to give will be good, and I like surprises.
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