Soldiers with machine guns, foreign looking robes and veils, and strange gutteral sounds all greeted me as I walked from the airplane into the terminal of a middle eastern airport. My first reaction as I looked around at my new hometown was fear!
It seems that many people’s first response to new situations or difficult circumstances is normally fear!
The global worker woman who goes to work with Muslim women experiences fear as she faces many new situations. She deals with the stress of culture shock. She must learn a new language. She also learns the dos and don’ts of another culture. Things that she would do at home–smiling and chatting with a man behind her in the grocery line, or looking in the eyes of the men she passes in the street or simply answering a question from a taxi driver–are all considered in her host country as come-ons and invitations to a sexual relationship. She not only goes through culture shock, but she watches as her husband and children deal with it as well. She may deal with guilt as she knows her children are suffering because of her calling and wonder if it is really worth it. She and her husband are busy re-evaluating their roles in this new culture. Decisions must be made on how to educate their children. She must keep up with her family and their needs as well as keeping up with her housework, correspondence, and ministry, in spite of the homesickness that threatens to overwhelm her. The global worker woman must balance her time and keep up with her different tasks without the support of extended family and the familiarity of dealing with issues in her native language.
The global worker woman also faces fear because of difficult circumstances. She can be afraid to go out on the street because of harassment by men. She can be pinched, fondled, followed and propositioned by strangers. Men assume she will be open to their advances just like the women they see in foreign films. A simple taxi ride can become a ride of terror as she pushes probing hands away. She is afraid for her children as they go through their adjustments. National children laugh at their western looks and lunches–how can you eat peanut butter and banana sandwiches? Will their negative experiences scar them emotionally for life? Will the amoebic dysentery cause long term damage to her children’s intestines? As she struggles in ministry she wonders if she will ever learn the language well enough? Will she ever lead someone to Christ? She is afraid of failing in ministry, both to her family and nationals.
She is also afraid of exposure in creative access countries. If the authorities find out that she and her husband are church planting among Muslims, the authorities could arrest her or her husband, they could get kicked out of the country with no time to adequately prepare. What if her husband is kicked out or imprisoned, how could she handle all that would need to be done on her own? How would this affect her family? What would her neighbors say or think about her?
Fear is the opposite of faith. For many years I assumed that doubt was the opposite of faith. It is not. Fear is. When I have faith in God–in who He is and all He can do–I cannot be defeated by fear. I need not be afraid. It is when I take my eyes off of Him and look at my circumstances, my own strengths and weaknesses, or the power of others that I become afraid.
Before I went to the field, I tried to demonstrate faith. In spite of my fears and concerns of what could happen, my faith remained strong. I knew God had called me. I saw God provide for me as people gave and prayed so I could go. Preparing myself through Bible study, reading books on Islam and attending classes on Muslim evangelism gave me confidence. I was sent by a church that supported me and even honored me for my commitment to serve the Lord.
I then arrived in a country that did not seem to want me and dishonored me because of my religion and my sex. Communication in the new language was difficult. My self-image plummeted as I became aware that little children knew more than I did. All that I had studied didn’t seem to be enough to convince my new friends of the truth. Could it be that my confidence had been in myself more than in God? Had my self-esteem been based more on what others have thought of me than God’s perception of me? Has my faith been strong only because life had been easier in my home country where I was surrounded by people who encouraged me and responded to my ministry? Where could I turn for help? As I hung on, trusting God became all I had to see me through. The
Word of God becomes my lifeline. Prayer became a necessity to survive. I had to choose between faith and despair. As my walk with God deepened, I faced my weaknesses and sinfulness. I confessed the shallowness of my faith and realized my need to really know God. I began to depend less on myself and my own abilities and more on the God who had called me. By faith, I looked to God to use me. In time, I began to see some fruit. I was encouraged.
Others also saw tangible results and the police sent for my husband to come for an “interview.” I didn’t know where he was, how long he would be gone, whether he would come back home or be sent out of the country. Fear came knocking on my door. Fear wanted to take over, wanted to send me packing. Faith in God, in the face of fear is what kept me strong, even when I felt surrounded by events that could have lead me to despair.
Faith in God gives courage to continue on. Though fear seems ever present, it is not allowed to flourish because we have come to know God, who He is and how He works, and we know we can trust Him.
It is only by faith that fear is conquered. When we as global worker women face new situations or difficult circumstances, we must continually turn our eyes to the Fearless One. He has already experienced death and conquered it. He has fought the enemy and vanquished him. He is the sovereign Lord. He protects His children in any and all situations. He sustains His workers in the fields. He is all powerful, faithful and totally trustworthy.
Faith . . . it truly is the victory.