This reflection is a combination of two reflection posts following my time in Nepal in July last year, and a year on, it is a good time to revisit these. One post was titled a reflection on mission and was written on the 23rd August 2015 and the other, “Things I learnt on the Mission Field”, written the 26th October 2015.
This is primarily a reflection for myself. To gather my thoughts, examine my heart, see where I stand. It is a look back into the past, at the beginning of this journey but also an examination of my heart now and how far my thoughts and desires have come. I hope you enjoy reading this and are challenged just as I have been.
I remember that I had already begun exploring mission as a potential path for my life back in October 2013, when I had been deeply convicted by one of my old leaders from my youth group about my “First World Problems”. The earliest record I have of those thoughts reminds me that “I would love to go into mission, and give myself entirely to seeing God’s Kingdom come.”
A year later, in October 2014, I wrote a blog post titled “The Call to Mission”.
The things I had been reading in the bible and elsewhere had convicted me, challenged me, grown in me an even greater desire to check this out for myself. Writing on the Great Commission in Matthew 28 I said:
“When I read this verse I feel compelled to go, knowing that there are still unreached places in this world.”
I had read some of the words of C.H Spurgeon, a 19th century preacher who put it like this;
“I plead this day for those who cannot plead for themselves, namely, the great outlying masses of the heathen world. Our existing pulpits are tolerably well supplied, but we need men who will build on new foundations. Who will do this?
Are we, as a company of faithful men, clear in our consciences about the heathen? Millions have never heard the Name of Jesus. Hundreds of millions have seen a missionary only once in their lives, and know nothing of our King. Shall we let them perish?
Can we go to our beds and sleep, while China, India, Japan, and other nations are being damned? Are we clear of their blood? Have they no claim on us? We ought to put it on this footing – not, ‘Can I prove that I ought to go?’ but, ‘Can I prove that I ought not to go?’”
This was my question. To quote myself, “Knowing God, and knowing there are countless out there dying in their sins without the revelation and salvation of Christ, “can I prove that I ought not to go?” In the end, no, no I cannot prove that I ought not to go.”
This year, upon listening to a number of podcasts, everything came to the heart stopping realisation that the unreached are “Without Excuse”. As it says in Romans 1:18-23:
(18) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (19) For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (20) For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (21) For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (22) Claiming to be wise, they became fools, (23) and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
~ Romans 1:18-23
Although they can see God clearly in His creation, He is not glorified, honoured or thanked as the one true and living God. And because they have seen God in all of creation, yet made idols of man and birds and animals, they are without excuse.
Spurgeon said “Someone asked, Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved? It is more a question with me whether we — who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not — can be saved.”
The question remains – “Can I prove that I ought not to go? I am without excuse.”
23 days before Nepal, I wrote a post titled “The Iniquity of Doing Nothing”. Feeling deeply challenged and convicted about slavery, poverty and the unreached, I wrote about James 4:
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
~ James 4:17
I know the right thing to do. I give my life to the cause of Christ, whether for the unreached in Nepal, the slaves trapped in India, or work here in Australia if God doesn’t call me elsewhere, to send others out on mission and give of my wealth for the people dying hungry and thirsty on a daily basis. If I fail to do it, knowing its a good thing that I have to do – it is a sin.”
Nepal was beautiful. Beautiful scenery, beautiful people and an experience I will not soon forget. I learnt to trust God in a way I never have before. I got to share the gospel with people who are deeply broken from the recent earthquake. I got to see the deep physical and spiritual poverty ingrained into the society. I learnt to rely on the Spirit for His much needed strength and boldness. As I sit here now in my comfortable, first world life, with my well paying job and comfortable clothes and air conditioned building a month after arriving home, I remember back to the bustling, congested roads, the buildings, the people I served with and the wonderful Nepali I had met. The hot weather, beautiful surroundings, kind hearted and generous people. I miss it. I remember sitting on the plane not wanting to leave.
This last year, in complete honesty, has been a very real internal struggle. Western Christianity and culture is comfortable. I’m self sufficient here. I don’t need to raise support. I don’t need to date and marry someone who is called to mission. Marriage and raising kids will be ridiculously easier. I want all these things. The truth is, we have it so easy here in Australia.
There are doubts. The feeling that I’m just not good enough. That I’m not actually being called to this. That I won’t learn the language well enough, not adapt to the culture, not have the support I’ll need. That I’m not qualified. However:
“No missionary has ever been fully qualified to serve God and every missionary I have ever met feels horribly underprepared for the task at hand. Your ability and skills are far less important on mission field then your willingness to serve others. You don’t need training, certification or a job title to be effective on the mission field. You just have to be willing to have an obedient heart to serve God.”
There are most certainly fears. Fear of getting sick. Never getting married. That I wouldn’t see family and friends again. I refuse, however to be paralysed by any fears. Faith, as it were, has always been much more powerful.
In the past I nearly threw in my plans for mission because of my desire to be married, which I’m no longer prepared to do. If my life takes this path, I’ll need to date and marry someone called overseas, on equal yoking in calling. I’ll need to put aside the desire for an easy marriage and life and be prepared to raise children in a foreign, potentially dangerous place.
All the self doubt, all the comforts, all the desires for an easy marriage and a house and a car and a cruisey life in this western world amounts to nothing compared to the insurmountable excellency of knowing and seeing and experiencing the work of Christ in the hearts of the lost. As Paul says in Phillipians 3:8;
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”
I want to go. I know it. Talking with friends over the last year has really helped with processing my thoughts, gathering my doubts. This is something I can do. This is something I can commit myself to. This is something worth giving everything for and losing everything for the great, global, glorious purposes of Christ.
“There is nothing in the world or the Church — except the church’s disobedience — to render the evangelization of the world in this generation an impossibility.”
~ Robert Speer
I genuinely believe that the great commission can be fulfilled in our lifetime. There are more Christians alive today then ever in all of history. Are we willing and prepared to sacrifice everything we are and everything we have for the sake of the gospel? Or are we going to sit silently in our churches while 48 million people are trapped in slavery across this planet, 26000 children die in extreme poverty every single day and billions of people remain unreached, people whose only eternal destiny is damnation? My heart has a resounding answer in the face of so much need: “Go.”
Be challenged. Let your heart be open to God’s heart for the lost. Be prepared, if He calls, to be obedient to the call. The harvest is so plentiful. The workers remain too few. The Great Commission is too great to take the sidelines when we could be on the playing field for the glory of God.
Whether I stay or whether I go is still ultimately up to God and He could at any stage tell me to stay – but nonetheless, what an opportunity to leverage my resources, to sponsor children, to ensure others can go and take the gospel to the nations. Whether I get married or not, whether children or not, whether here or there, it’s all in the sovereign hand of the one who holds all things together by His Word.
Time has been flying by and I still can’t believe how fast 2015 came and went. Further reflection towards the end of the year moved me to write a post on things I had learnt on my time out there in Nepal.
The things I learnt out on the field are many, and it’s extremely difficult to get most of these experiences into words. But here are four things I learnt in Nepal:
1) Trust in the Holy Spirit
I don’t know about you, but here in western civilisation with all our affluence, I find it very easy to trust in myself and my abilities and everything I can do. I’ve never had to step outside of my comfort zone (my skills and abilities) to any great extent before. So, when we were asked to go out into a section of the city with another member of our group, no leader with us, no extensive knowledge of the language, and no idea where to go, I was scared. How are we going to do this?
The Holy Spirit in us provides strength and guidance. Scared, timid, out of the comfort zone me was amazed when we came out of the other end and had some amazing conversation with Tibetan Buddhists for 45 mins straight on our and their beliefs, in the wake of an earthquake that decimated their home of Langtang.
2) Creation is not enough to show God
Since becoming a Christian in year 11 and studying year 12 biology, I have looked at science and my natural surroundings with a great deal of wonder. I see the handiwork and the fingerprint of a Creator strewn across the stars and mountains, across galaxies and bacteria, DNA and mitochondria.
Nepal in particular is phenomenal. In January, I was in Tasmania and the scenery there is great, but Nepal took my breath away. Mountains surrounding Kathmandu, a valley already 1km above sea level. Forests and rivers, plains and valleys. I didn’t see Mount Everest or the Himalayas but I can only imagine that sight would have been stunning.
“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
~ Romans 1:20 ESV
Even though we may see the glory of God in nature, in science, in all of creation, it has not and cannot be enough. The gospel is required, because the gospel, according to Romans 1, is the power of God for salvation to those who believe.
3) Other religions are not as harmless as they seem
In Nepal, there are many different religions at work, with Christianity accounting for approximately 200,000 of the 25 million population. The two most predominant are Hinduism and Buddhism.Hinduism has millions of different gods while Buddhism, normally, has no gods but aspires to attain buddhahood through religious observances and karma, and separation from suffering.
I came into Nepal with the opinion that other religions are relatively harmless. I left having experienced the most spiritual darkness and emptiness that I have ever felt. We were invited to walk into the Buddhist temple and have a look into their chanting room. Gongs, drums, chanting and major goosebumps. A sense of darkness. I had to leave within 30 seconds of entering because it was too spiritually overwhelming. These religions are not harmless – they are a tool of Satan to draw and deceive people away from the light of Christ, and he has been succeeding in places like Nepal, a stronghold against Christianity, for millennia.
4) You’ll never truly be ready
You can go through everything in your head as many times as you want and feel as ready as you can… But when it comes down to it, it’s so much harder in practice. It’s hard to learn another language. It’s hard to talk to people about Jesus. It’s hard to step out of your comfort zone into an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar sights and sounds. Stepping out in faith is hard. Its hard to get to understand another culture which is so different to what we are used to.
The greatest truth for our preparedness is that God doesn’t always call the equipped but He always equips the called. I’m looking at going on a short term trip to Cambodia next year with my church, and I know, even after my time in Nepal, I’ll never be truly ready for it. But thanks be to the Holy Spirit for preparing the way in us, so we can step out in radical faith and “just do it”.
Looking back, my time in Nepal, even for those 10 days, has transformed my vision. My heart is moved by social justice. Hearing of the unreached challenges me. The thought of mission and overseas ministry excites me. I look forward to seeing, over the next few years where God takes this. Looking forward to being challenging, going deeper and stepping out in greater radical faith then before!
Oh that I would be obedient to everything God calls me to do, both now and in the future.