Monday, February 19, 2007

Spiritual And Not So Spiritual Warfare!

Hello All,

Before I write this, I want to reiterate that this series of blog entries relates only to what I have learned about missions over the last few years through stories and conference attendance. These do not reflect our personal experience, as I feel that we can say that ours was a charmed experience in some regards. Rather, I want to convey some of the lessons and struggles that I have personally witnessed or had occasion to listen to. I feel that our mission, our churches, the Spain Chain, and our Spain Team were, and are, model support systems that protected us from some of the horror stories that we could have experienced. That all being said, that is not the case for a great many missionaries. I write on their behalf.

I am intrigued by how the body of Christ can be so divisive against itself. It has always been that way from the very beginning of the Church. Social issues ate up the early church when it came serving food to widows. Then the twin doctrinal issues of circumcision and levitical compliance plagued at least the Galatian church of the first century, but was likely much more wide spread. Infighting, bickering, slander, gossip and the promulgation of half truth continue to take out the legs of people in the church today.

Magnify that on the mission field, where time zones and various activities keep people apart, making communication very difficult, leading to rumors, imaginations and suggestions that the missionary in question might be a rogue, Lone Ranger type character. Many times, not all times, this could not be further from the truth.

Missionaries have often told stories of the deep woundings that they have received from various organizations or churches, fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, and even family members. Often they are questioned about their ethics or their practices. This is the "not-so-Spiritual" warfare part, in that the attacks come from people who are well meaning perhaps, but terribly misguided.

On the other side of the coin, there is a tangible sense of spiritual reality that comes on the frontline of service. There were times when we felt a tangible sense of dread and fear, as though something was breathing down the back of our necks. Powers and principalities fought against us at various times, though we were never beaten back. Intense spiritual attack is par for the course when you are on the mission field. Many missionaries suffer from intense loneliness. Others keenly feel that they are not succeeding at any part of their mission, so a deep sense of discouragement and failure sweeps in. This is the enemy's playground.

Why do I share these things? I share these things in order to provoke sensitive relation and communication with our missionaries. Patience, understanding, and charitable (loving) hearts are necessary now more than ever. Encourage, don't disparage. Question how you can help, not why something has not happened as had been the plan.

Can some missionaries be a little sensitive? Perhaps. Can some supporters be a bit insensitive to their missionaries? Perhaps that is true as well. Maybe we can strive to meet in the middle so that our communication would always be a pleasure and a blessing to our missionaries. At least then, the real enemy can be fought with all strength and power in the name of Jesus.

In our experience, it was always a joy to see phrases like, "How can we be praying" or "Do you need anything?" Other times, there were people who called to simply ask how we were doing. If we were struggling, the best calls were the listeners with empathetic ears who offered a prayer at the end.

So many missionaries feel like they are not succeeding in their quest to serve the Lord. They face constant discouragement from various agencies. There are some who feel forgotten or abandoned. We can pray now that the Lord would strengthen, encourage and lift them up. And when we have occasion to speak or write, let us pray that our words would be seasoned with salt, filled with grace and encouragement, so that we might be conduits of God's ministry to them.

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

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