I’m a CSPC missions partner in a country where Gospel ministry is quite restricted. Therefore, the church is protecting my identity as I share this instance of how God has worked in my life. Many years ago, I was working in the physics department at a university in our place of ministry. We had been there a little over three years. As I headed to the lab that Monday morning, I was very happy. The previous week we’d received assurance from the school’s foreign affairs office that there should be no problem extending our contract through the next year. This was important because I had another year and a half left on a government grant for my research. I also couldn’t help but be thankful that almost 20 years of preparation had all come together during my time at the university. I enjoyed the scientific research we were doing because it was a natural extension of my Ph.D. dissertation. In the lab, almost all communication was done in the local language, so all my time spent studying the language was paying off. Even the Biblical training we’d received helped as my wife and I gave marriage counseling to some friends and encouraged other local believers we knew. Sometimes I would pinch myself to see if I was dreaming! But as I entered the lab that Monday, I suddenly felt unnerved. I saw the director in his office and noticed he avoided eye contact. Since we had a wonderful working relationship and friendship -we even socialized as families- this seemed strange. I couldn’t help but wonder if something was wrong. The next day I found out my suspicion was correct. The director called me into his office and told me that someone in the government had overruled the university. My contract could not be extended. He had tried to argue for at least a six-month extension, but even that was refused. We were going to have to leave the university. Over the next week or so, I tried almost every angle I could imagine to see what we could do. I talked to the lab director and the university president about just moving to another school, but they strongly advised against it. The best thing -in fact, the only thing- we could do was leave the country.
As you can imagine, this was quite a shock to us. For me, it seemed like all the dreams and preparations of the previous 20 years were coming to an end. For my wife, it meant she would have to leave an extensive network of friends. For our children, it meant leaving the only home they had really known. The Lord miraculously opened a position for me in another country, but I still had tons of questions: ‘Why, God? I thought you had called us to serve You in that country! What about all your promises? Lord, we want to stay. Why don’t you answer our prayers? God, we had it all planned!’ Although there was so much pain, both for me and my family, as I look back on it now, I can say it was the best thing that ever happened to me. The Lord needed to do a deep work in my life. It didn’t happen overnight- the whole process took maybe five years, but step by step the Lord let me see that there was idolatry in my life. My idol was my ministry in our country of service. When I was finally honest with myself, I realized I was more concerned about the amount of time I served there than I was about anything else. And that was idolatry. The Lord in His grace wanted to bring me to the point where my desire was to serve Him and Him alone, so the location wouldn’t matter. This realization was essential for me to be able to take on the roles the Lord had in store for us later. Only then would I be free of the bondage of trying to prove my worth and be able to rest completely in Him. Now I look back on this painful process with thanksgiving and praise! Would you pray for God’s continued protection for me and my wife, as well as fruitfulness and encouragement in our ministry? We would also appreciate prayer that we continue to be sensitive to His leading as He continues the lifelong process of shaping our own hearts, even as we invite Him to work in the hearts of those around us.