Receiving letters from missionaries keep me encouraged. Here is the latest update from a friend named Steve. He is a missionary in India.
Subject:[hodduexpress] For the less-read or otherwise confused:
Date:Saturday, September 23, 2006 6:47:05 AM
I just wanted to send this short treatise for the benefit of those who rarely, never, or only occasionally actually read all the way through my regular reports. Or for those who do, but who find them vague, obscure, opaque, confusing, ambiguous, abstruse, enigmatic, or inscrutable. Why? Well, a few recent communications from that end have indicated that what many would consider to be highly pertinent info seems to often be buried someplace within them, where it may be difficult to pick up on. Info that is crucial in terms of understanding who I am (for those few who don't really know me) or more often, in terms of getting some grasp of how I'm going about this task here. So in the end there can be confusion re: what I'm doing here, what I'm not, my situation in general, who I do or don't work with / under, etc, etc. So to be clear:
1. I am not wandering around India / Asia. In my first two years ('02-'04), I was indeed given the opportunity to work essentially in three different places for three distinct groups doing distinct and diverse types of work in different states of India. I don't think that constituted "wandering" at any point, but whatever, I do thank God for that time of relative "unsettledness", because I think it made me a lot more knowledgeable, better-rounded, adaptable, culturally appropriate, and equipped for what I've now been led into. I should be clear that even if I had NOT been led into anything more "stable" / "settled", it would NOT make the work any less legitimate. Certain gifts described in scripture would certainly require moving about, and we also see such "unsettled" examples of ministry in people such as Aquila / Priscilla, etc. However, I am no longer in that situation.
My situation: I have been living / working full time in the same place since my return to this land in early '05 - more than 1-1/2 years now. I have lived in two rented rooms in a village home all this year, and plan to stay there for as long as He is willing (even a lifetime, if He so desires). I know my neighbors / "family" there and spend time with them in work and leisure, as well as with other local people. I do actual practical work at the hospital here besides. When I do leave the area, it is normally not by choice. I am required to leave the country every 180 days for visa reasons, and in order to avoid spending 70+ hours traveling to and from a border for mere formalities, I try to take advantage of that time to meet up with others along the way who are in the same line of work, for reasons of encouragement, learning, discussion, pr.ayer, friendship, and accountability of some type. Or to meet up with other "lost" Indians or traveling foreigners who are the truly "wandering" ones, having no sure Anchor to hold them, no sure Rock to stand and build upon. Any without our Hope, they are the truly unsettled. Do remember that. Whoever has Him, is "at home". We are "not citizens of this earth." The Son of Man, even, had "no place to lay his head". Let us be careful not to place our own cultural standards / ideals above those of the Word.
Other times, when my travels ARE by choice (i.e., "Monsoon Wedding" and "Himalayan tour" (upcoming)), there are always ulterior motives, and the Lord has always used me in some way in these times / places to be a witness for Him. He works in a variety of ways, of course, even through my personal interests / skills, whatever (photography, motorcycles, whatever). But I just met a worker from perhaps the biggest most organized, and among the more conservative organizations in the U.S. (with which there would presumably be the most accountability, no?) - he said he was going to Buenos Aires in November. I asked why. He said, "Vacation, man! - I'm going to learn the Tango, baby!". Okay. No sin in that. But forgive me, I'd rather just be here, and stay in places and with people who have at least SOME connection to why I've been called all the way over here. So sue me.
2. I have accountability. First, I've been formally sent by a local body, and take seriously my commitment, made publicly, to serve under those who've done the sending, to be in doctrinal agreement with them, to submit to them, etc, etc. I've promised before the entire congregation to inform the leadership if my thinking on such matters should ever vary. Second, I am in close contact with the local leadership here, meet with various members weekly or bi-weekly for study, for pr.yer, for discussion, planning, for sharing one-on-one our struggles / victories / hopes, etc, etc. These are regularly scheduled things to which both parties are committed. We are not talking about "bumping into" each other. Third, I write all of you ridiculously long and detailed reports which are very "open-hearted" – I share with you my failures, any doubts, and any folly as much as (and more than) any apparent wisdom or successes. I invite your critique, your advice, your warnings, and wise comments, and I've often received those same things from you. I do not take them lightly or quickly forget them. If you're one of those who's ever taken the time to send your thoughts, even if cautionary or contrary, I thank you. You are a crucial part of the work here. I mean that sincerely. Lastly, I never do forget Who it is that I'm really working for here, and Who I'm ultimately, eternally accountable to. That should make me (and all of us) almost tremble at points. If I have serious faults, one has always been the tendency towards extreme self-analysis and self-critique. That doesn't mean I can't have blind spots – we all do. But I think and over-think through almost everything before, during, and after doing it. On the positive side, any self-doubt leads me into seeking wise counsel and going forth in pra.yer. I do very much believe that I will answer to Him one day…even for "every careless word"… and also that, as I love Him, He will work out ALL things for good. I have seen that so much in my life, and I don't doubt that I will continue to see it.
It is rightly said that in communication, the responsibility / burden falls upon the communicator vs. the communicate – so I accept that I've failed to be clear in some things. Some may suggest that I make the reports shorter. To a degree that may be possible, but: 1. It would not be my style. 2. The long ones do bring a considerable amount of positive feedback from various readers. 3. I want you to have the option of being fully informed. 4. I usually try to provide a summary at the top, for those lacking time to read from "cover to cover" – and I will try and make sure in the future that ANY info people might think is important will be included there.