As a husband and parent of five, on mission in a foreign country, I had little time to stop and rest. Transitioning to being an ESL school teacher, learning a new language, making new friends, paying bills, converting budgets to pesos, shopping new markets, and ensuring my children’s hearts were shepherded filled up the schedule. It was disorienting and we found it hard to learn our place in the community, church, and culture.
This trial brought a large amount of stress….At times we felt rejected, frustrated with the language barrier, out of place, unable to understand our purpose and why God had us here. My wife and I had some deep and difficult conflict in our relationship during this time as well, (and with the Lord’s help and guidance, we have successfully waded through these challenges!)
At times I felt almost incapacitated in my ability to be a good husband and a good parent to children who were all struggling with the transition as much as we were. Out of this lack, I sought ministry as an opiate. My ministry at the school was a given and a true blessing, but I started to put my identity in what was happening in the margins of life. I began searching with a discontented heart for some faith-filled activity or some ministry position to give me purpose.
The result of this pursuit was that I began spiritually abandoning my family and their needs, leading to a wife and children clamoring for my love. I was lost in the belief that the answer was in a “good ministry” (from an outside perspective). After all, this is why I was here right?…I’m supposed to be missionary superhero in a foreign land. The stuff of movies and books.
I worked hard at this pursuit, all the while neglecting the ministry God had commanded and provided right in front of me…my family! All of the activities that I had sought to do were “good” and “godly,” however; they were not God’s will for me at that time. In 1 Timothy 3, the scriptures teach that a leader “must manage his own household well with all dignity keeping his children submissive for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” This scripture came to my mind as God began to return my gaze to Himself and my family.
God pointed me to himself and what He did on the cross as the means by which I would give up what seemed more fruitful and fulfilling at the time (“church” ministry) and instead, focus on the main ministry that God had already provided and ordained. God, our great Papa, gave himself up for me so that I could thus do the same for my family. My wife had been praying for this as she knew I was hurting and wandering, and unaware of her prayers, God pressed it on my heart! He is faithful!
Refocusing on my family was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Several of our children were in distress, and because of God’s will to turn me from escaping the problem to facing it, we have seen these difficulties melt away, while God provided liberation and healing. Since my focus has shifted, my family has been experiencing the blessing of a joyful papa. Because of this decision, and God’s grace in it, the ministries God has ordained have become more evident in my life, and they are fruitful! My wife and I have been flourishing, like never before in our marriage, and our family is bonding in new and amazing ways God is showing his steadfast love towards us, as we come under his Word.
I encourage you to take a hard look at your life and your priorities. Can you honestly say that your family is your priority ministry? If you seek leadership, have you proven your trust in God through leading your family first?
I will close with a short vignette from a book called King Me by Steve Farrar. There was once a very successful traveling evangelist. His ministry was thriving, many people were being saved, and he was booked up 4 years in advance for speaking. In the midst of the upward success, the evangelist gets a call from his wife that his teenage son is unruly and disrespectful and that she can’t handle him. Out of faithfulness in what was probably a difficult and gut wrenching decision, He gives up his highly successful and personally rewarding ministry, moves to a smaller town in another state, takes a local pastorate, and begins pouring into his relationship with his son. After his son left the home he tried to get back into his evangelism ministry only find that the desire for him to do speaking engagements had dried up, and the time for his organizational and worldwide evangelism ministry had passed. His gospel influence had diminished…..…or so it seemed. God and his Word are faithful. The evangelist’s son, because of the love and sacrifice of his father, would go on to be arguably one of the most successful evangelists in American history, Dr. James Dobson, aptly the founder of Focus on the Family.
I praise God for this father’s obedience, and I am hopeful that we will all realize that God is working well beyond what we can see or imagine. Your decision to focus on the heart of God’s ministry, your family, will yield rewards beyond our temporal generation to a lasting legacy of God’s grace, mercy, and power!!
Rob Moser, GEM Missionary