The entry to our home displays a wall plaque with Joshua’s statement of commitment: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”. We adopted this proclamation as our own when we married and became a family, and so dedicated our two daughters to the Lord from the start of their lives.
Yet at times I have cried out for sympathy when I came face to face with the implications of living out God’s calling on our lives.
“Does that really have to mean separation from all our dear ones?” I asked. But God’s spirit through His word reminded me, “No one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come, eternal life”. Luke 18:29–30
The request to reflect on the topic “Fear or fruitfulness” came at a time of heightened pre-Christmas nostalgia. You see we are separated from one daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren who have been serving in Cambodia for 11 years, and our other daughter, son-in-law and grandchild are understandably preoccupied with their pre-departure stage of cross-cultural ministry in South East Asia.
“Why would you be surprised that your children are willing to serve in hard places?” our friends and family have reminded us. Throughout our 30 years serving in rural pastoral ministry with the Anglican church, we shepherded struggling parishes and communities. We experienced God’s provision, healing and growth whenever we stepped out in faith.
Our own lives have been enriched through cross-cultural ministry locally and through visits to teams working in Cambodia and South East Asia. Since retirement from parish ministry we have been freed to offer chaplaincy to Interserve staff, CultureConnect team members and the in-country member care team.
It is not that we do these things for reward. The fruit of obedience is far reaching. By surrendering our cultural values to Kingdom values we experience a closeness to God in all things … we suffer with Him, we care deeply about injustice, his creation, and his people of all backgrounds and cultures.
We can overcome fears of this world—about security, education for children, loneliness for us—through prayer and reading God’s word.
However, some well-meaning friends and family members question the validity of our work and sacrifice. It would be so easy to accept their sympathy and kindly meant advice; however, they may be more like Job’s advisers who introduced fearfulness to his circumstances. Instead, we may recognise in this situation an opportunity to share our experience of God’s goodness and purpose in our lives and so build others’ understanding of what God requires of us.
I urge the Interserve community to come alongside those families, especially parents, who are left behind, to lovingly support them and remind them of God’s faithfulness.
Our inclusion as part of the Interserve community in Australia has helped us to more fully understand and support the whole scope of ministries which God’s people are called to, both locally and in Asia and the Middle East.
As we experience ordinary people doing extraordinary things we recognise that the power of God overcomes fear and timidity: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Thus we are equipped with fruitfulness both in our character and service in order to share the best news of all wherever we are planted.
Let’s support Partners and their loved ones, and encourage and spur each other on through prayer, communication, financial support, visitation and opportunities for fellowship.
Ian and Nancy are parents and grandparents to Interserve families serving overseas. They also serve on our Member Care team looking after Partners and CultureConnect team members.