By Sarah Nelson
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Ephesians 6:9 (ESV)
When I was a young mom to be, I thought that being a good seamstress was a necessity for being a good pastor’s wife and a mother. I envisioned sewing all of my children’s clothes, except for maybe their onesies. And so, my Kenmore machine, yards of fabric, and piles of patterns were my evening companions as I awaited the birth of our first child. My husband wrote seminary papers and read theology books as I stitched, stopped, tore out seams, and repeated the process again, and again, and again . . .
Well, let me tell you how my first sewing attempt went. I actually could show you if you come for a visit, because I kept my first “creation” just to remind myself of my beginning sewing steps and the hours of frustration they caused me. I decided that a snug sack would be an easy and useful first project. As I clumsily cut out the pattern and fabric, I kept telling myself that no one would see the mistakes, they would be hidden on the inside. After several nights of pinning, reading directions for the millionth time, and re-threading my machine, Josiah’s first pajamas were complete. The only problem? I had sewn the sleeves shut. Tears of frustration flowed from my tired eyes as I told my husband I wanted to throw my sewing machine out of our third floor apartment window. To Dave’s credit, he didn’t laugh at me. He didn’t encourage me to give up. He hugged me and told me that my worth as a wife and a mom didn’t depend on my sewing skills, or lack thereof. He encouraged me to rest, and try again when I felt I would enjoy sewing, not when I felt I had to do so.
How often in my spiritual walk, have I been tempted to give up? More often than I care to admit. Weary? Yes, it’s a feeling I know well. Many of us know the definition of weary when we have given, tried, sacrificed, and done our best, yet it doesn’t seem to be enough. How important it is to go to the Lord in prayer and pour out our hearts to Him. How essential it is to go to the Word and be reminded that our faith isn’t a graded test, it is a grace-filled gift from Jesus.
Sister, are you weary today? Break away from your long to-do and half-done list. Spend some time in the Word. Be refreshed, be renewed,and be re-energized to keep on keeping on. May your good works, and mine, be a thank you gift to the Giver of all good things. May He be the source of our strength, and the reason to give and share, so that other’s may know Him.
My teammates and I have been in India for two months now, working at St. Paul’s Lutheran School with the children and in the ministries with the AFLCI President, Luther Dasari, and his family.
Our primary role here in India is to be of help wherever the school and the ministry need us. This means that many times we will fill classes when the teachers are gone (we’re basically substitute teachers here) and we teach Bible stories during those hours. Occasionally, we may have a translator, but many times not. The point for the school is for the children to learn and understand English, and if we had a translator, the students wouldn’t pay attention to our English. (Also, having someone in the classroom translating just isn’t always possible.)
Using Bible storybooks has been a great help for the students in understanding English and the Bible. Over the course of the summer, I have been able to see the classes understanding English more on their own (especially middle to older classes). While I don’t know where many of the kids are at spiritually, what I do know is that the majority, who attend the school, are Christians (it is a Christian school, after all). I also know that before we came, many of the students didn’t have much Biblical knowledge, so our work here has been to teach them the Bible. We started with the story of Creation, and have been working our way through the stories in Genesis and Exodus, and just today, I taught one of the classes the story of Moses receiving the 10 commandments. One point we always make sure to emphasize is how each story points to Jesus, the promised Savior, and to show how He saved each one of us on the cross.
These past couple weeks have probably been some of the hardest of the summer for me. I’ve been fighting sickness for about two weeks now. Some days have been stomach problems (what you can expect), but most has been asthmatic problems, and the Indian air doesn’t help a whole lot. Other times, the hard part is just being here, missing home. I don’t necessarily miss my home in Plummer, MN, but I miss being able to talk to more than my teammates in fluid English. I miss the taste of hamburgers, chocolate-chip cookies, and American food in general. I miss being able to be built up in the faith by my church and the friends I surround myself with at home. I miss being able to connect to people on a deeper level, without cultural boundaries.
There have been tough points along the way, where I’ve felt spiritually dry and empty. I speak, I teach, I pour myself out to the kids to the point of exhaustion at times (which also explains why I’ve been sick). And unfortunately, discouragement has crept in. It’s the discouragement that comes with cultural problems and ministry in general. I can’t pretend that I’m winning many a soul for Christ in being here (and we do work mainly with Christians). I can’t tell you accounts of spiritual awakenings happening, or the gift of tongues being poured out among us so that we could understand one another perfectly in one language (although that would be nice.) I’ve been discouraged because I know that I’m an investment to the people back home, and I don’t want to disappoint those at home who have poured money and resources into me for me to come on this 2 ½ month journey. The truth is, being on the mission field isn’t easy and sometimes you don’t see the fruit (or if you do, sometimes the type of fruit you would like) that comes from your labor.
With India being a very relationship oriented culture (as opposed to a time oriented culture), sometimes it’s more important to sit and just be with the people. While bringing forth the Gospel and the Word of God is of utmost importance, the language barrier is an issue. Deep conversations about Jesus don’t usually happen one-on-one with the children we minister to, because the English skills aren’t there. Ministry with the children mainly involves teaching the Bible in the classroom, and just showing God’s love to them.
Spending time with the children, playing, and praying with them is showing them the love of God. It means learning their games, like cricket and caroms. It means going to the beach with them. Sometimes it means spending time in their rooms at night, or having a sleep over with them. (Picture sleeping on a cot along with three other little girls, who may or may not have lice, and who want you to drape your entire arm over them so they can cuddle with you, while they sleep.)
Love is messy. Love means dressing the way that they dress, regardless of whether or not you think wearing a scarf over a Punjabi seems strange. Showing God’s love is drinking chai, eating massive amounts of rice and curry, and eating with your fingers. Showing God’s love is squatting down on a squatty potty and using a bucket of water instead of toilet paper. Are these situations uncomfortable? Definitely. But they help you to relate to the people you are ministering to, and show to them that you care enough to engage in their culture and life. Do I fail in the mission field? Absolutely. Can God use a broken vessel, such as myself, to serve my neighbor and show them God loves them, even in a foreign country? By God’s grace, yes!
The main thing I’ve been learning throughout these harder weeks when I’ve been sick and/or missing home is for me to be faithful in the work that God has called me to. That has become my daily prayer. And God has been faithful to me during these times. He has shown me encouragement through my teammates uplifting me in prayer. Seeing the children learning God’s Word, regardless of whether or not they always understand every English word, is an encouragement. And taking time to rest spiritually in His Word and prayer is encouraging.
“But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill.” – Psalms 3:3-4. These verses comfort me, because it shows how utterly helpless we are before the Lord. It gives me strength, because I know that instead of relying on my own strength, I can rely on the Lord to be the “lifter of my head”. When I am discouraged, I know the Lord will sustain me. I know that He is faithful to us.
Will you please continue to pray for the work here? Pray for these last three weeks that God will continue to give us strength and health for the ministry here. Pray for the children, that they will be growing spiritually, and for those who aren’t saved, that they will come to salvation through Jesus Christ. Pray for the short-term team as they come alongside of us shortly. Thank you for your support and prayers!
There are many challenges in God’s Word given to His people. We are told to pray for those who teach and preach His Word and for more workers to respond to His call, for “How shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:14, 15) “Go and make disciples of all the nations, teaching them…and lo, I am with you.” (Mat. 28:19, 20) Still, after almost two thousand years, there are tribes that are unreached with the gospel message.
The challenge to us is:
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers.” (Mt. 9:37,38)
“Pray for us that the Word of the Lord may spread rapidly.” (II Thess. 3:1)
“Devote yourselves to prayer…that God may open up to us a door for the Word, so that we may speak for the mystery of Christ.” (Col. 4:2,3)
“Pray at all times in the Spirit.” (Eph. 6:18)
“Pray without ceasing.” (I Thess 5:17)
Pray for fellow believers:
“Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2)
“Be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” (Eph 6:18)
“Pray for one another so that you may be healed.” (Jas. 5:16)
God’s promises are:
“The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (Jas. 5:16)
“If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us…in whatever we ask we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” (I John 5:14)
What wonderful promises! May we be faithful to pray and generous to give of our means so the Word of God will reach more of the lost peoples while there is still time and opportunity.
Dear WMF friends,
We just returned from our oldest daughter Rachel’s wedding in New Mexico! Barb and I are now “in-laws”! It was a very special time together and the service was a wonderful opportunity to share the love of Jesus. Also, we just reached a rather significant milestone in our lives and careers as missionaries . . . this past month, May, marks 20 years since we became missionaries with the AFLC. Many memories, many demonstrations of God’s love and faithfulness in the midst of some very great sorrows and difficulties and some very great joys. Thanks to all of you for your help and encouragement in making these 20 years come to pass.
Todd and Barb Schierkolk
Jerez, Zacatecas, Mexico