Written by Marti Lembke
Ministry is going so well; why now, Lord?
When we were home on furlough, our daughter-in-law’s cancer returned and she was given a short time to live. We prayed fervently for guidance and felt God saying we needed to be home, to share with her while there was still time and to comfort our son in his grief.
We had been on the field four short years and were just now comfortable with the language. This past year we finally made a breakthrough in understanding the culture and settling into the kind of ministry that suited our gifts. What would happen to these ministries when we left? Who would follow up?
We had invited the pastors of our town to our home once a month with their wives for dinner and prayer. It was an awesome time to share what was happening in their churches, to relax and laugh a little, and to pray for the town. They were all stretched so thin; who could take this on? Who could give them a night to be cared for?
We had traveled to two nearby towns and presented marriage workshops. Although not professional counselors, one couple told us the meetings saved them; they had been seeking professional help to dissolve their marriage. Oh Lord, don’t let the families be destroyed!
We had gone out onto the streets and given out sandwiches, tea, and tracts to the homeless, the street musicians, the down-and-out. We had a few regulars that were always in the same spot, and sometimes they let us pray with them. No one had yet accepted Christ; would we see them when we get to heaven?
Neighbors, friends, and ESL students were all questioning, and we were having good discussions and times of sharing our faith. We longed to see them come to Christ; we longed to be in on the harvest.
So, with all these thoughts and prayers, we packed up and moved back to our country of origin. It did not feel like home anymore, but it was definitely the right place to be. On the morning our daughter-in-law passed away, I woke up at 4 AM and felt the Lord directing me to go to her. When I entered her room she was restless and thrashing in the bed. I started to share the gospel with her and, while she did not appear to be conscious, her restlessness eased. I read some psalms and finally sang Amazing Grace. I asked her to make the decision for Christ before it was too late, and I believe she did. When the nurse came back in she was amazed at how calm and peaceful my daughter-in-law was. Thank You, Lord, that I trusted You and came home from the field so I could be there at that moment. It has been a little over a year since our daughter-in-law died, a difficult year of seeing our son sink into a deep depression, but he is now coming out of it and learning to live again. So the questions start again: what about our ministry? Who is taking care of those we loved so dearly?
God is so good! We received an email from the pastor in one of the towns where we did the marriage workshops. After we left, some people came to him, saying they loved the meetings and that they felt they really helped. The pastor and his wife decided to take the challenge and continue the meetings. He is reaching out to believers and non-believers, helping to strengthen marriages and win souls. Thank You, Lord, that those families will not be destroyed!
Just last week we heard from a colleague in the town where we handed out tea to the street people. One man of whom my husband was particularly fond had come to our colleague’s attention. She has shared the Gospel with him and given him a Bible and some Christian music (he is a street musician). Thank You, Lord, that You love the unlovable. I believe we will see this man in heaven.
As I write, this passage from I Corinthians 3: 6-9 comes to mind: I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God Who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
We do not know what the future holds; we are waiting on the Lord. While we wait, we take comfort in knowing that we were a part of the planting, and, while we may not be in on the harvest, there will surely be one. We are so thankful to have been given the chance to be God’s fellow workers overseas.
Be encouraged, whether you are on the field and it does not look like much is happening, or you have returned from the field and are concerned as we were about your ministry. God is in control. He has a plan, and He will see it through to completion.