Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” And that is exactly what we as global women often fear—being the foreigner. Answering God’s call to global service usually takes us to a land or an area with which we are not familiar. The magnitude of this undertaking could be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.
We must remember that the God who has called us to this task is our loving Heavenly Father who made us with our own particular strengths and weaknesses, talents and spiritual gifts, personalities, and so on. Whenever God gives us a task to fulfill, it is because He sees in us the abilities for its successful accomplishment. Those abilities don’t lay in our own sufficiency, but in the all-sufficiency of the God Who lives within us.
I grew up as an MK in the West Indies and felt the call of God upon my life to serve as a global worker at the age of fourteen. I had a specific burden for the countries of Latin America. At the age of twenty-two, I was excited to begin serving in the country of Mexico with my husband. I realized that going to a new country as an adult was quite different from going as a child with my parents. I, now, was responsible for following God and relying totally on Him. I began to study the life of Abraham, realizing that I could learn much from observing how He followed God “by faith and not by sight.”
Abraham is first mentioned in the Scriptures in Genesis 11, but we get into the “meat” of his story in Genesis 12. As I read these chapters, I noticed that each time Abraham obeyed God and made a move (which usually called for some type of separation), he received fresh revelation from God, further vision from God, and flourishing success (see also Mark 10:29,30).
In Genesis 12:1-6, we read of Abraham’s separation from his homeland. After obeying God’s command to go, he received fresh revelation and further vision from God. In verse 7, God promised, “This land will become yours; it will become your home.” And so it was for me as I moved to Mexico. As I went through yet another cultural adaptation, there were times when Mexico was the last place in the world I wanted to call home! Yet, a year later I was surprised how much I missed my adopted land when we had to leave for a few days to renew our visas!
In Genesis 13, Abraham had to further separate himself—this time from his nephew Lot. Most likely, Lot was like a son to Abraham since Haran, Lot’s father, had passed away when Lot was younger (Genesis 11). In verses 14-17, we read how God once again gave Abraham fresh revelation and further vision: “And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered…”’ God gave Abraham that new land as his possession. He does the same for us—He allows us to conquer for Christ a part of that new land to which we go.
Then in Genesis 14, we read of several kings who raided the area where Lot lived. Abraham rescued not only Lot, but others of Sodom who were taken. After the rescue, the king of Sodom offered great riches to Abraham, but he refused them. Abraham was willing to separate himself from worldly acclaim and riches. Yet, God saw fit to make Abraham rich. In God’s service, we are not out to make a name for ourselves, but we too will be rewarded. We cannot out give God!
Later in Genesis 17, God gave Abraham the commandment of circumcision. Abraham further separated himself from those around him by obeying that command. While living among unbelievers, he stood out as someone different—someone who was dedicated to the one, true God. As global workers, we will stand out as foreigners—not only because of our earthly citizenship, but also because of our heavenly citizenship.
Abraham and the males of his household were fairly “useless” for a few days after obeying this command. “Useless” is the term I think of when I remember my feeling of ineptness and incompetence upon arriving in Mexico and not being able to communicate. I had never been in that position before; we spoke English in the West Indies. It was hard not being able to do normal things such as asking for what I needed at a store. It was frustrating to start a sentence and not be able to finish it. I am not comparing learning a foreign language to being circumcised, although it was pretty painful at times! My point is that when we feel at our greatest level of uselessness or incompetence, God will be there to undergird us and give us the strength and wisdom we need. After Abraham obeyed this particular command, God once again gave him fresh revelation—in person! God told Abraham that Sarah would have a son within the year. God does not appear to us in person as we have His complete Word, but He does give us the same promise that prefaced this command to Abraham: “I am God Almighty.” Before calling Abraham to spiritual maturity, God said, “I am EL SHADDAI”—the Almighty. What may we not do if we learn to avail ourselves of the almighty power of God?
In Genesis 18-19, Abraham’s compassion for others is demonstrated as he prayed for the deliverance of Sodom and Gomorrah. How we need to maintain a compassion for the people with whom we’ll be living! EL SHADDAI will be there to answer as we pray to have the compassion of Christ.
God asked Abraham for the ultimate sacrifice in Genesis 22. Abraham realized the basic truth of stewardship: God owns everything; we must never refuse God’s right to ask something of us. Once again, God’s revelation came—the provision of a ram.
God always provides and compensates for the sacrifices we make.
As Abraham draws to the end of his life in Genesis 23, his wife precedes him in death. Abraham did not have a place to bury her, but God provided a place. As I read this account, I realized that this burial cave was a provision from God—one that Abraham did not receive until he actually needed it. In our lives, we can be assured of unknown provision and blessings, already ours in God’s safekeeping. These blessings will be withheld until the moment that God sees best to bestow them upon us.
After Abraham’s death, we read in Genesis 26 how his obedience brought blessings to his descendants. God said to Isaac, “…and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws” (verses 4-5). We must not pity our children for growing up in a foreign land and culture. We must not communicate to them by word, action, or attitude that they are making a great “sacrifice.” Our children will be exceedingly blessed because of our obedience to God’s call.
Let us avail ourselves of this mighty resource—total faith in God’s sovereign wisdom and provision. This faith will take us from being a foreigner to being a sister in Christ to people of our adopted country.