“And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.”
— Isaiah 30:20-21 ESV
We recently had the opportunity to hear from two sets of global workers for whom we have been praying for many years. Both sets are retiring, and it gives us time to look back over the years to see how God has shown up.
Gloria heard a call to missions early in her career. Her struggle came when it didn’t seem as if God was opening doors to the place she felt she was to go. The Holy Spirit finally nudged her to surrender her expectations and she was placed not in Asia, but in Africa.
Her first term was anything but quiet. In the midst of learning language and culture and getting acquainted with organization policy and destinations, there were also lessons in negotiating a carjacking, being kidnapped, surviving gun-shot wounds and life-threatening bus accidents, and being thrown by a camel. What education course fully prepares one for that? Most global workers will never experience any one of those situations, much less all in just one four-year term!
Still, she served among the peoples of the East African bush for 18 years, running two dispensaries and mobile health care outreaches with a speciality in ophthalmological nursing. She came to realize that a better way for teaching healthcare concepts was through native music and stories and became trained as an ethnomusicologist encouraging the use of indigenous music in health care teaching. Some of these musical lessons became part of the church liturgy — in addition to the Bible and Gospel readings, one might now hear a call and response about the spread of AIDS and responsible sex practices.
“How will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
— Romans 10:14, ESV
With retirement approaching, Gloria has decided to not leave the work entirely. Quoting her life verse from Romans 10:14, she recently spent a month traveling throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo for evangelistic health camps before returning for a final two months in East Africa. After transitioning to Associate status, Gloria will return to Africa for short medical trips. Her adopted African son has experienced his own encounter with a mission-minded God and is an evangelist reaching out to another unreached people group on the continent. The seeds of the Gospel are being planted and watered in areas far beyond Gloria’s reach now.
Kevin and Beth
Kevin and Beth were settled and thriving in their host country in Central Asia. As an organization we have prayed for the people of this area for more than six decades, yet with little encouragement to keep going. The government became more hostile to outside influences. The country has been torn apart with violence. There have been few reports of believers and none willing to meet publicly.
But there was work, work that was done well, with a backing of prayer support. Kevin and Beth raised their family of five children there, with three of them returning as adults to do their own work. Community development projects were initiated with village leaders, safe childbirth classes were conducted and more babies thrived, latrines and wells were dug, and different ways of animal husbandry were experimented with.
But all was left behind last month with the knowledge that they most likely would not be returning. The situation is indeed desperate in this country.
Language teachers, housecleaners, security officers, street vendors – all are apprehensive about the future, some because of a new-found faith but all just because of an association with expats.
Those who have come to faith in Jesus are on the run, but are seeing God miraculously guide them. Stories such as we learned from the Bible, of husbands being woken up in the middle of the night to hear, “Leave now!” are shared.
Networks of women are working around the world to provide a safe place for a short time to hide from pursuers. These bring to mind the stories of Rahab, of Joseph fleeing for Egypt, of God providing.
These are the global workers of 2021. The work must be covered with prayer, long before a worker is on the ground. The hearts of the people must be prepared to hear the Good News. The people who go must be prepared for long bouts of hard work, with little to show for it. The church must be prepared to continue to pray, to pray without ceasing, regardless of the lack of physical evidence.
The work is not done.
The call of Jesus remains more true today than ever before:
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few! Pray to the Lord of the harvest for harvest workers!”
— Luke 10:2
[Due to sensitive situations in these countries, the photos shown are of general areas, not specific global workers.]