One of the joys of a life on mission is the relationships you make in the family of God. The longer I live, the more amazed I am at the resilience of these ties.
Working toward a common goal in missions builds close bonds.
While Facebook and other social media kind of connect you with people from your past, there is nothing like a face-to-face visit, and when I realized that some old friends had moved into my area of the country, I said we had to get together. What was our connection? Missions.
Though now married, I met the then-single woman of this couple in the mid-1980s, when we were in the same training group for short-term missionaries. I went one direction and she another after our seven-week orientation, but upon our return to the United States two years later, we both ended up at the same seminary, along with twelve other friends from our group. She was part of my unofficial “debriefing” group of girls that met every Saturday that first semester at a local French bakery. We talked about our struggles, schooling, and of course, guys, as we ate baguettes and patisseries.
I would not have survived my reverse culture shock without that group.
She met her now husband during those days, and they married and have continued to serve in missions and for missions in various capacities over the past thirty years. What was it like to see them both face-to-face sitting in my living room?
We picked up where we left off.
Catching up with life, kids, and work, we had so much to talk about that the time flew by. No longer able to stay up until midnight, we called it a night at 9 p.m., so they wouldn’t fall asleep on the drive home. We may have aged, but our hearts enjoyed the excitement of connection that first bound us together all those years ago. We’re already looking forward to the next visit.
Birds of a feather flock together.
There is nothing more satisfying than time spent with like-minded friends, and that’s what mission service does to us. You realize these people understand what it is to be homesick for a place that was at first so unfamiliar and strange. They understand the hurt we feel for the vast number of people who have yet to know Christ. They struggle, as we do, with the flaws we see in our country and churches. They’re easy to talk to because we don’t have to explain ourselves—they just know.
Don’t neglect meeting together.
Though the writer of Hebrews was giving encouragement for the church-at-large, I do think this admonition works for those of us who have lived a life on mission as well. We need this fellowship, these relationships that bind us with others who have walked the same path and understand our joys and struggles. Being with others builds us up, encourages us to press on for the cause of the gospel, and reminds us we are not alone in the task.
Whether you are just beginning in mission service or have many years behind you, take the time to develop and nurture relationships with others on the journey. You’ll be glad and blessed if you do.
Grace and Peace