While a number of our colleagues, both missionaries and nationals, welcomed us back to Africa about a month ago and were genuinely happy to see us return to the work here, it's obvious that we aren't really wanted. We've felt that sentiment before, but never is it more pronounced than when we return to the field following a Home Assignment. It's that difficult period of transitioning back from America to Africa that makes us realize yet again that we really are not wanted here.
In case you're shocked by that, allow us to explain. Barely a week had passed since our arrival in Senegal when a nagging physical ailment hit.Then we received word that our credit card had some "anomalies" that were "a concern." Unfortunately, in order to straighten out the glitch, we have to send them documents through their website, which we can't access in Ivory Coast (where we've been for most of the time we've been back). Talk about a mess! A few days later our computer died. Dead, dead, dead.
Some people would say, "What's the big deal?" And they'd be right. Those things aren't really big deals unless you look beyond the obvious and consider things that go on in the unseen world. Take a look at Ephesians 6:12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
One of our colleagues, recently returned from a year of Home Assignment, came back to a barrage of things needing repairs. As one thing got fixed, another would break down. It took weeks of discouraging setbacks to finally be re-settled into ministry. Another missionary family newly arrived on the mission field quickly came to realize they "aren't in Kansas any more" as they faced disappointment in their housing arrangements, brand new appliances freshly shipped from the U.S. that wouldn't work, the realities of difficult day-to-day living in a culture that is so foreign to all they know, and a computer that is giving troubles close to death too.
Whether being on the field over 30 years like us, or fifteen years like our veteran colleagues, or two months like our new colleagues, it's often the unseen forces of evil that remind us that none of us missionaries are wanted here. The enemy will use all means possible to prevent the spread of the good news through disappointment, discouragement, or disaster. As you think of and pray for those involved in ministry - your pastor, your missionaries, your Christian school teachers, etc. - ask that we will take to heart 1 Thessalonians 3:2-3,
"Don't be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them."
Your partners in minstry,
Bill and Dianne