Being involved in the work of China Partners but from the other side of the world can have its challenges. I write to the missionaries and I hear the news, but it does not always hit me like it probably does those on the front lines. I can’t always seem to get my head around the culture and what it is like for a North American to live in China day after day. But believe me when I say that the work those men and women are doing for the Lord in China is far-reaching, much more so than mainland China. I recently received a newsletter from one of the missionaries and while reading it, something hit me in a way it hadn’t before.
It is not easy.
The mission field can sometimes be used as a kind of ‘traveling the world’ experience. I have seen this before: young people raising support to go to a place they otherwise would not be able to, doing some social justice work, and after a few months coming home. It hit me reading the newsletter that to these missionaries, China is home. It is where the majority of them are building their lives, and it is not easy: it is full of trials and difficulties, language barriers and bureacracy, different living arrangements, having to write in code to friends and family, and so much more in their day-to-day lives that we cannot even begin to imagine. But with all this, they have joy. They know this is where God has them and they are doing their utmost to ensure the Gospel goes out to as many Chinese students as possible. This is not a vacation for them: it is a place where their faith is being tested and refined, sometimes by fire, so that they would be found steadfast and lacking in nothing.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)