I'm finishing my first of two weeks of MissionPrep in Toronto. Yes, it's cold! (I'm really hoping I get to go ice skating sometime while I'm here!) This is the last phase of required training before I can move to Zambia. Yay! The subject is how to minister effectively and thrive personally in another culture. Topics have included spiritual formation, cross-cultural communication, different worldviews, theology of suffering, and incarnational ministry. All these are breezed over pretty quickly; the idea is to introduce issues and get us to ask questions to pursue on our own.
Probably the topic that has stuck out to me the most has been the theology of suffering, and the topic of risk assessment tied into it. I already understood that suffering is part of the Christian life, that it brings us closer to Christ and allows us to share in His glory. Likewise, risk is part of missions--after all, the mission field is essentially the front lines of the cosmic war we are in. There will be casualties. But the question that troubles me is, what's the line between being willing and being foolhardy? That's so hard to say since there are many biblical examples of fleeing, avoiding, and embracing suffering. Now, Zambia is far from a high-risk area--it's quite peaceful, which is one of the reasons I've been assigned there rather than a "hotter" area of Africa. Anthony's risk/benefit analysis was that it would be better for everybody if I were to be in Zambia. And honestly, I don't think I'd have any anxiety about going to a more dangerous place if it was decided that's where I could minister most effectively. The question bothers me more on an emotional level, with personal risks I've chosen lately--choices for growth and potential blessing that I knew also would hurt. I guess the scary part is not knowing how much pain I'll find before it's all over. And for that reason, my think-it-through mind sometimes freaks out, because I want to know what I'm getting myself into. It's like anytime I'm getting stuck with a needle, I watch--because I cope better knowing the gory details than wondering what's happening. And yet I recall in my prayers over this decision, somehow I was more at peace with the idea of going forward with the unknowns than walking away. The ever-so-still words that came were, "This will change you. It will have a cost, and it will be worth it."
Please be in prayer for the remainder of this training, and that I will indeed hear a word behind me when I turn to the right or to the left saying, "this is the way, walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21). Finally, praise the God who loves us enough to suffer.