Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8
In part 2 of a two part series on serving in hard places, Interserve brought together a panel of four senders - Dr. Patrick Krayer, Executive Director at Interserve USA, and Pastor Selvam Muttu of Victory Family Centre - who are senders in their capacity as leaders of parachurch and church organisations respectively; as well as Kwee Siew and Angel, who are senders in their capacity as a mother and friend.
The panel was brought together to answer a few questions: What does it take to send someone to a hard place? What are the joys and challenges of doing so? What sorts of partnerships - friendships, fellowships - were helpful on this journey? These questions and more were answered in this authentic sharing of God’s heart through theirs. But the deeper question that God seemed to be asking was this: are you willing to let Me plow up the hard ground of your heart?
I said, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts for now is the time to seek the Lord, for now is the time to seek the Lord that he may come and shower righteousness upon you. Hosea 10:12
What is hard ground?
When you think of “hard ground”, what comes to mind? Perhaps it's an area that is poor, unstable, conflict-ridden? Or a place that is unhygienic, with harsh weather, disasters? Or perhaps one where other religions are openly celebrated, which brings limitations to sharing the gospel? Outside of our sheltered homeland, Singapore, being a minister of the gospel can carry real risks - the possibility of being kidnapped, sexual harassment, even the potential of never coming back. But will we go?
In spite of the risks that lay ahead of him, Paul said of his visit to Jerusalem, “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.” (Acts 20:23) Yet, he considered his life “worth nothing to (him)” except to finish the race and accomplish the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24)
Once we are willing, and say yes to God, He will provide. The testimonies of these senders and goers demonstrate that He is indeed faithful.
How do we send?
The role of a sender is to release goers to go to the hard places that God brings them to. We can do this by training them, releasing them, praying with them, being Jesus to them while they are away, and especially when they return.
By training them
Just as a soldier needs to be trained to enter battle, missionaries require training before they are sent, especially on special assignments. As the body of Christ, we can support their journey through equipping them. At Victory Family Centre, the mission field is mobilised in a number of ways, including intercessory prayer, word challenge, raising lay people as missionaries, training and equipping, and so on. In the Interserve model, a missionary is provided with training before departure, and ongoing training once the worker is on-field. This helps the missionaries to be equipped to “live well enough to live there”.
It can take 3 to 7 years to be immersed in a place, and to understand the nuances of each context, Patrick shared. This may seem like a long time, but it is necessary. Only through a deep dive into a place can a missionary truly, effectively “live incarnationally to provide answers that make sense to that culture”, Patrick explained. In hard places, witnessing a goer living incarnationally among them, may be the only picture of Jesus locals get to see.
By releasing them
As well-intentioned parents, family, friends, and church leaders, we may question the decisions of potential goers and dissuade them from going. However, the best thing we can do for a goer is to release them into God’s perfect will for their life.
“Why send a 19 year old, your daughter to Jordan? You’re crazy. Everyone will think you’re crazy.” Kwee Siew shared her thoughts, from her human perspective, when her daughter Esna felt called to go to the Middle East to serve the refugees there. “As parents, we submit to the Lord,” she said. “We don’t want to disobey the Lord, and say, ‘Don’t go’...We stand in alliance with the Lord, and we release her,” she added. “If God calls you to go, just go,” said Angel, recalling her words to her friend that God called to serve in a hard place.
By praying for them
Prayer is a powerful weapon. In terms of hard places, it cannot be underestimated. When it comes to praying, “we have to be commandoes”, Kwee Siew shared. “We cannot be soldiers who melt in the sun!”
When God opened a door for Kwee Siew to visit Esna in Jordan, she went fully armed for combat. “When I went there, it was really praying time...Wherever I went, I prayed”. Requests for prayer could be speedily sent with the help of WhatsApp, mobilising teams of prayer. “Everything I turn into prayer,” she said.
By being Jesus to those who love them
Building relationships with those in the network of the person going is crucial, Angel said. Before her friend left, Angel attended prayer meetings, got to know her friend’s family so she could serve them at special occasions, and continued regular communication. “They might disappear on you”, she shared candidly.
By being Jesus to them
Angel shared the importance of being Jesus to those who go. As a friend, she sought to provide the support that Jonathan gave to David. As a person with a call to missions herself, who had grown through various seasons of life with her friend she was sending, they could reflect on common experiences in their journey with God.
“The best way of preparing to go is to send,” she observed. While in Singapore, Angel remains highly involved in the missions ministry, gives her friend updates about church to help her stay abreast of new developments, and also serves the places God puts on her heart by being a host to those from that nation who come to Singapore.
Not Kiasu or Kiasi, but Kah Si Kingdom Service
The air-con nation of Singapore may be a threat to our salvation if we allow ourselves to become complacent, prioritise convenience, and love our creature comforts above the call God has for us. Being Kiasu and Kiasi - afraid to die and afraid to lose - are two characteristics of Singaporean culture that are not aligned to the Christian faith. Kwee Siew, whose initials are also K.S., suggested that we be Kah Si - unafraid to die. That kind of commitment to Christ is what we need to counter our mindset of self-preservation!
“We live in a time when people want convenient Christianity,” Pastor Selvam agreed. Quoting David Livingstone, he shared: “If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.” Like Paul, we are called to be Jews to Jews, Gentiles to Gentiles - to pay the price of being a witness. “Somebody’s got to go, somebody’s got to pay the price”.
Christianity will cost us - just as it cost Jesus everything. However, when we choose to honour God, we will receive his blessing. “The way for Singapore to stay blessed is to seek God first,” said Pastor Selvam. In Victory Family Centre, where he serves, their mandate is “sinner in, missionary out”. Serving on the field is not something that only career missionaries ought to pursue: it is a call for every disciple. The church calls its members to spend up to 13 months to understand the field, and 28 months to lead church planting teams. In 40 years, the church has planted churches in 95 nations around the world. According to him, being kiasu and kiasi is carnal thinking. He shared of how missionaries returned to Singapore and found they did not lose out in any way – career progression or their children’s well-being.
Kwee Siew recommended, in line with Victory Family Centre’s mandate of sending its members out to the field for 13 to 24 months, that Singaporeans also dedicate that same amount of time to serving God, in a form of Kingdom Service.
Beautiful are the feet that bring good news. We are all called, in one way or another, to serve the nations by being on field or by preparing someone to be on field. Perhaps the hardest ground is our heart. May the Lord soften our hearts so that we will yield to His voice, trust and obey…today.