March 2004

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The real struggles of missionary life seldom have anything to do with the heat, flies, and harassment that come with living in a poor African country. The real struggles come from finding that the very people to whom God has sent you are often little inclined to cooperate with you or God in the missionary endeavor. In this letter, Diane shares the travails of her ministry among Kwong women. 

"I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you."  On many occasions recently Paul's words to the Galatians have echoed my own sentiments as I have struggled against indifference and tradition in my desire to see Christ formed among Kwong women. 

It's reasonable that we should experience birth pains as we look toward the redemption of the Kwong people because all of creation is also groaning in the pains of childbirth awaiting its redemption.

After 11 years of missionary service I'm beginning appreciate in a new way just what it takes to give birth to spiritual offspring - trusting God's leading outside my comfort zone, loving people who aren't always easy to love, sharing the glory of God's gospel in a language that's not my own, living in a culture and climate that's far from easy, facing opposition and discouragements, yet not wanting to be anywhere else, because these are the people in whom Christ is being formed by God's grace through our ministry. 

I feel those pains especially as I struggle to teach the women of the church. Although I've bent over backward – on the encouragement of the “big women” of the church - to offer Bible studies, sewing classes and reading classes, virtually no one avails themselves of the opportunities, including the leaders. Yet those same big women come running to us at full tilt, without first seeking and trusting God, to bail them out of the least financial difficulty. Discouraged, Paul's words to the Galatians come alive to me "I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you."  

Yet there is a hope that sustains us. It is the hope found in an exceptional few who in fact do take advantage of what’s available to them and in whom we see Christ being formed. With these exceptional men and women, we are working to instill the tradition of transferring the knowledge of the Kingdom of God to their own people both in the church as well as their unreached neighbors. 

Tabitha (right), one of the exceptional few, is a precious sister who lives for her Lord. One morning while she and I met to read Scripture and pray for other women, God sent two women to join us (which is exactly what I had prayed for, but yet was surprised when it happened). One, a pagan who knew nothing of Christian teachings, soaked in the Scripture we read, asking questions that led further and further until we had shared the whole council of the Word of God. Tabitha and I praised God for this blessing.

A few weeks later a group of pagan women asked Tabitha for us to pray for them and share about God with them. So we sat on a mat in the dust and preached creation, sin, death, and grace to the 10 women. Four days later three of them came to church with one of their husbands. A few days later another group of women asked Tabitha for us to come and share with them, too. What joy to see God opening doors to our non-Christian neighbors and at the same time developing within the church this tradition of passing on the gospel of His Kingdom. 

Yet another day when I was sick with fever, packing for a trip, and entertaining our boss from the USA,  the wife of a prominent Muslim and her friend arrived. It was their first visit in two years. "OK Lord, I'll welcome them, but I need your strength."  Two weeks later this woman returned and we went to her home, taking along an evangelical calendar in Arabic script to give her husband. Although it took an exhausting 100% effort to struggle with Chadian Arabic for the next two hours, it was a joy to see the husband reading the verses and commentary under each month aloud to several other men who had joined us.

It's reasonable that we should experience birth pains as we look toward the redemption of the Kwong people because all of creation is also groaning in the pains of childbirth awaiting its redemption.  We rejoice that God has allowed us the privilege of living and loving among the Kwong as we await the redemption both of our bodies and theirs.


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