One Woman’s Opinion: A Few Words About Missionary Service

1. I need to remember that I’m here to serve the Lord, not my fellow global workers or the Africans I’ve come to reach.  Why?  It is very easy to get disillusioned if my service is for others because they are just fallen sinners like me. They will disappoint me all of the time and discourage me. That’s a fact. It can’t be any other way. However, God will not disappoint me. He loves me unconditionally and as long as my service is for Him alone it will not be in vain. I can leave the results to Him.

2. My expectations for personal outreach were too high when I came.  I know my life is a living letter, but I didn’t know it would be so hard to actually convey the Gospel message. On the field things happen on a different timetable. Quick conversions may happen, but the converts may leave the faith just as quickly!  The language and culture barriers are much greater than I imagined.  It’s not enough to speak the right language: lasting spiritual results will come only after complete understanding of the Gospel. There is no quick fix for the problems I see in this third world, animistic society. Every thing is on God’s timetable. I need to always keep the BIG picture in view.

3.  Arrogance as a global worker is hard to overcome.  I am a white, rich American and there is no way to get rid of all that entails.  I will always draw attention. I am liked because of what I offer the community
economically and otherwise.  It’s easy to forget that I am simply a servant of Christ with a life changing message to share.  This arrogance permeates everything. It will only be by God’s grace that anyone sees Christ’s humility in me.

4.  In ministry it’s easy to accept jobs I feel qualified to do.  The problem with this is that when I have the attitude of “I can do this” I’m not allowing God to do the work. Again, I must remind myself that if my fruit is to remain, it must be planted, watered and harvested by the Spirit – not me.  This is a humbling fact to realize that my talents, education, etc…are of no use to God on the field. He uses the weak and foolish things of this world, not the wise.

5.  It takes a lot of effort to leave my home.  This fact is surprising to me.  It is much easier to stay in my home and live my little life as I see fit.  If I am going to have an active part in spreading the Gospel I must look for avenues to do it.  There is no lack of ministry opportunities!  The trick is just seeing where I fit in and how I can best use my time.  Most of my time is taken up with my ministry with NTM. However, there are many opportunities to minister through the local church, parachurch organizations, and at my children’s school. Maybe this is a unique situation for me because I am living in a large city with various ministries.  In any case, I must leave the confines of my house even if it’s just to meet my neighbors.

6.  About family life on the field.  Being a global working family is unique is some ways.  You are put in close proximity with your coworkers and their families.  Your coworkers are your friends, family, church, and fellow global workers.  We know a lot about each other and this can sometimes make it hard to have our own space.  Maybe we know too much. When you are this close, it can sometimes make it easier to judge each other and impose our opinions on one another. Somehow we think we have the liberty to do this. It’s a thin line we all must walk between being helpful and being critical!! Because of this I think it is very important to make decisions for our family based on our particular situation and needs.  We shouldn’t have to second guess everything we do or compare ourselves to each other. It isn’t healthy. We are responsible for the well being of our children, not our coworkers. If our marriage falls apart it won’t be because of others, it will be our own fault.  There are so many decisions to be made concerning where and how our kids will be educated, how we spend our money, how we use our time, etc. etc. etc.  It is hard knowing that what we do may be criticized by our coworkers or others in the States, but before God we must make these decisions based on what’s best for our family. Ultimately, we are responsible only to God. This works both ways.  Meaning, I must keep my nose out of my coworker’s family business and be supportive with my silence.  And I must never forget, that my coworkers are relying on the Lord for their families, too. We’ve got to stick together and make this unique situation work!!!

7. A little about ministry.  When we first arrived our field chairman told us that they consider Robert and I as a “set.”  They don’t think of us as having “Robert’s ministry” and “Terri’s ministry”, but rather “The Harmon
Ministry.”  At first I was upset about this because all during deputation I told people, “Well, Robert is going to be the computer guy and I’ll work with MK Education.”  While this is true, I’m learning that my ministry
cannot be that cut and dry.  My ministry must be all encompassing. It includes being a wife, mother, homemaker, teacher, global worker, language learner, cook, neighbor, friend, Christian, and the list goes on. I can’t compartmentalize my life and have a 9 -5 ministry. It doesn’t work that way. At any given time I must fulfill all of the above roles.  Now I’m glad about the view our leadership takes of me and my ministry here.  I am free to be all of these things! It is a privilege to be part of “The Harmon Ministry” and ultimately this is much more fulfilling.
There is so much to learn, discover, and reflect upon. Wow.


©2002 Thrive

View the original print magazine where this article was first published.