By Kristi B.
I wanted to be a missionary or a pastor’s wife. This was decided before I turned ten. I’d let God pick, but I had hope that I’d someday travel to Africa and be like the women for whom our Easter and Christmas offerings are named.
When I knew that I was going to marry Jason, those dreams, I believed, went up in smoke. He didn’t seem too serious about attending church weekly. Not only that, he wrote his goals down on a half sheet of notebook paper while we were still in high school. It included buying a couple of cows, finding a preacher to marry us, attending, and finishing college, and then living a life making money. God had other plans. He walked in the door after work one day, a New York Life agent, sharing that God was calling him into ministry.
Though I harbored a secret wish to go on missions, I taught while he attended seminary. He pastored a small church with a parsonage on the grounds. I spent my days teaching a group of second graders, in a town so intimate, that church and non-church members allowed their children to come play at our house after school. I’d load kids up in my Dodge Durango at 3:50. Others would have their parents drop them off or walk the two blocks from the elementary. In the chain link fence in our backyard, I loved on a slew of kids. I taught a couple of them that it was polite to knock before entering someone’s house and to ask before you got into their refrigerator. To another, I explained that he couldn’t use the bathroom in the yard. I picked up a lot of trash and toys. There were stick fights and things shared with my five-year-old, including lice, that shouldn’t have been. They were a rowdy bunch, but I soon realized that they were my mission field. So was the lady who told people in church early on in our time there that “Hell must’ve froze over” because I’d spoken to her. I learned she was my mission field too. I learned there what I was agreeing to, being a believer and pastor’s wife. Some taught me kindly; the others taught me just how much holy help I’d need.
We received a petition in opposition to my husband in our next church. I was as excited about going to business meetings there as I was the dentist. A lot of bickering surrounded a building project that was already (supposed to be) in progress when we came. Though these folks were, and still are, dear to us, criticism and conflict were a part of that mission field.
We’re in our twenty-third year of ministry. Our mission field has included a man who interrupted the church invitation to admonish the church. His mission included both public and private attacks on my husband. Of course, he’s not the only one who’s ever come into my husband’s office heated. There have been loud dissenters and whisperers and let’s not even get started on people who haven’t been crazy about our children. Our mission field has included hard deaths, power struggles, people who don’t like us, people who say they love us and then leave. We once lost over 100 members over something that was out of our control. When I dreamed of my mission field it didn’t include the invasion of my home and fridge or the disapproval of believers. My mission field didn’t include hostile meetings or friends who left it without warning. But it’s where God has placed me. As hard as it’s sometimes been, it’s been more beautiful than I could have imagined. It’s been more full of easy to get along with, generous, gracious people than difficult ones. To think that God uses us in sticky, desperate situations and places us around difficult people, not for just a quick trip, or even a couple of years across the ocean. We spend our life aware that the people right under our noses, like us, need more Jesus. What better way to know that we need Him, and have Him, than to realize that we have a permanent spot on the mission field. What a privilege. A song would say it’s “joy divine”.
Galatians tells us to carry our own (appropriately sized) load. Citing the greatest commandment, it tells us to carry the burdens (heavier than our own load) of those around us. I thought this would happen in Africa or in some unknown territory in South America to a people who don’t know the name of Jesus. Instead, sometimes he places us around people who know Him, but like me, need to be reminded of who He is.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:9,10