Two years ago, I was in Tanzania – on the mission field. My Facebook Memories section is full today of those stories.
I haven’t been anywhere since TZ because that trip took a great toll on me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. On the mission, we worked late at night in the red light district with young girls bound by the sex trade. A few were receptive; many more were cold. Some were downright angry! My very first encounter was an older lady that approached me and seemed to bless me out. She yelled some things as she pointed her finger in my face. I don’t know what she said because my interpreter didn’t tell me, but it was not good. We were often in dark places and alleys where you couldn’t see one step ahead to get your footing. We were also in busier areas of the city with more light but where the pimps, bus drivers, and local motorcyclists would try to intimidate you by driving as close to you as they could to you without hitting you and screaming at you as they did so. During the daytime we did prayer walks through those same streets which were now quiet and well lit by the hot sun. There we saw the evidence of the darkness all over the place.
I need to say it finally – when I was out on the streets at night I felt fear. I didn’t want to and never expected to but I felt a kind of fear like I have not known in a very long time. It was a crippling fear and it was terrifying at times. Sometimes I couldn’t think of any words to say and often I didn’t know what to do with myself. My entire being felt like I went into survival/escape mode. Here I was a grown woman…thirteen years free from that kind of fear…experiencing it once again. I remember feeling so ashamed and disappointed in myself. I remember thinking if I couldn’t do this, why was I even there? Standing there frozen in fear, I couldn’t think of one good reason. The director of the mission said later I had been sent there to pray, but surely I could have prayed from safer places. Nevertheless, pray, I did. It was all I was capable of.
It has been two years, and since returning to the USA from TZ, my world has changed in many ways. I been obedient to new assignments and done many good things. I have mostly moved forward. But I had not moved past those five nights on the streets of Tanzania. I have sat too often thinking, wondering, and questioning every call the Lord has placed on my life in relation to them. I have tried to transform my call (to missions, prayer, and teaching the Word) to something more safe and domestic so as not to include those days as the will of God. I have tried to make the fear, and it’s consequences someone else’s fault. I have turned down invitations for missions thinking at least now I knew what my true calling wasn’t. But then I have watched as many have gone out here or there, and I have tried my best not to care. But the mission field is buried deep within my heart, right where God planted it.
Today, two years later here I sit and I admit I totally botched-up the job. I failed the team, supporters and I failed the girls. Their stories were heartbreaking, and they deserved more. But more so, I failed God. I should have walked in boldness and faith through those streets like the rest of the team. I should have let Him carry me through the fear. I should have and then I could have come home excited for what the Lord did and been on fire to tell of it. Because the LORD truly did great things despite my weaknesses and failures. Instead, I avoided most conversations about it. What would I say? After all, wasn’t my testimony that God delivered me from extreme fear?
Perhaps not telling the real story with the real emotions of my real mission experience was my biggest failure. So many go on missions and come back ready to take on the world. I have and I love that about missions. But I wonder if others (like me) ever left on a mission feeling confident and came back only to battle the enemy and themselves for a season because of what they have seen, heard, and felt that they weren’t able to overcome on the field? Anyone else ever feel like you botched-up the job God sent you to do?
Today I saw the quote above and I listened again to the story below of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. These two great missionaries paid a high price (in life and death) to stay faithful to their call on the mission field. If anyone had reasons for great fear, Elisabeth Elliot did. She inspires me.
I came away from her testimony today and some sermons my pastor has preached lately and I repented of the doors I had to have opened that allowed such fear in. I asked the Lord for forgiveness and deliverance from all fear. I asked Him to destroy it at the root and fill that empty cranny with Himself, His joy, His life, His peace, His boldness…and if it is His will and He can trust me and use me once more, I ask for another chance somewhere, someday.