When you obey in response to God’s call to serve in overseas or cross-cultural, or frankly any ministry, it can be so easy to miss out on opportunities to speak truth into the lives of those around you. Why? Because we don’t pay attention to what God’s doing.
We work hard to learn about our new people group, learn a new language, settle in, and then we make plans on how we’re going to reach them all for Christ. Did you catch that? We make plans. Sometimes, it goes without saying, that our plans get in the way of God’s.
After over thirty years, I still find no better guide to service than Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God, because it reminded us all to stop and look where God is working and then join him there. When we were newbies on the field, my husband, Raouf was always focused on this concept. He wrote, “The sign of the Lord in Syria is for people to come by themselves to ask: ‘How do you know Jesus as Savior? How can we accept him?'”
Raouf was not afraid to depend on the Lord to bring people into his path whose hearts were ready, and prayed in faith expecting God to respond. Did this happen? It did. One time it happened with a taxi driver stopping by the side of a busy street, when he saw Raouf, and telling him: “I’ve been looking for you for six months. You left a book with me, and I read it. Can I ask you some questions about it?” Who can say no to that?
Is God at work in the people to whom he’s called us? He is. How can we tell? By paying attention to what people are saying.
What does this look like? Well, it could be that through a time of illness or devastation, God is drawing a person to himself. Then you come along, full of kindness and understanding. You listen, you hear their heartbreak, and you not only pray for them, but tell them it is not just chance that you showed up today. God put you together, because he cares for them and wants them to know that he sent Jesus to endure pain, so that they don’t have to be trapped with it for eternity.
Maybe during this isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, a person confides in you that they’ve never felt so hopeless and alone. You can share that God has heard their cries and brought you to share the good news that he offers a way for them never to be alone again.
Or, perhaps, as people in your neighborhood see you smiling, loving your children or spouse, not afraid to live despite a pandemic…especially in a foreign country, they dare to come to you and ask: “What makes you different? I want what you have.”
How often do we miss seeing the people who are cracking open their hearts to God, because we are looking at the big picture of our plans and missing the individuals that cross our path?
May we all open our ears, eyes, and minds to be alert to those whom God is preparing for us to engage with on behalf of his kingdom.
Think about the woman who simply touched Jesus’ robe and was healed. He was so alert that he turned and said, “who touched me?” Lord, grant us such attentiveness to your working in the lives of others, for your glory.
Grace and Peace