Two years ago, I was in Tanzania on the “mission field.” My Facebook Memories section is full today of the stories of that last trip.
I haven’t been anywhere since because of the toll the trip has taken on me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. On the mission, we worked late at night in the red light district with young girls bound in the sex trade. Some were receptive, and some were cold. Some were downright angry! My first encounter was an older lady that seemed to bless me out and yelled things as she pointed her finger in my face. I don’t know what she said because my interpreter didn’t let me know, but it was not good. We were in dark places and alleys where you couldn’t see one step ahead to get your footing. At night we were also in very busy places with more light but where bus drivers and motorcyclists would try to intimidate you by driving as close to you as they could without hitting you. In the daytime when we did prayer walks through those same streets which were now quiet we saw the evidence of the dark all over.
I need to say it finally – I felt fear like I never expected I would. It was a crippling fear and it was terrifying at times. Sometimes I couldn’t think of any words to say and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Here I was a grown woman…thirteen years free from that kind of fear…experiencing it once again. I remember being so ashamed and disappointed in myself. I remember thinking if I couldn’t do this, why was I even there? Standing there frozen in fear, I couldn’t think of one good reason. The director of the mission said later I had been there to pray, but surely I could have prayed from much safer places. Nevertheless, pray, I did. It was all I felt capable of.
It has been two years, and since returning to the USA from TZ, my world has changed in many ways. I have accepted new assignments and done many good things as I have tried to move forward. But I had not moved past those five nights on the streets of Tanzania. I have sat too often thinking, wondering, and questioning every call the Lord has placed on my life. I have tried to transform my call to missions, prayer, and teaching the Word into something more safe and domestic. I have tried to make the fear, and it’s consequences someone else’s fault. I have turned down invitations for missions and I have watched as many have gone out here or there, and I have tried my best not to care. But the mission field is buried deep within my heart, right where God planted it.
Today I admit I feel I totally botched-up the job. I feel I failed God, the team, and supporters and I failed the girls. Their stories were heartbreaking, and they deserved more. I should have walked in boldness and faith through those streets like the rest of the team. I should have come home excited for what the Lord did and been on fire to tell of it, but I couldn’t. Instead, I avoided most conversations about it because I was ashamed. After all, wasn’t my testimony that God delivered me from extreme fear?
Perhaps not telling the real story with the real emotions of my real mission experience was my biggest failure. So many go on missions and come back ready to take on the world. But I wonder if others (like me) ever left on a mission feeling confident and came back only to battle the enemy and themselves for a season because of what they have seen, heard, and felt? Anyone else ever feel like you botched-up the job God sent you to do?
Today I saw the quote above and I listened again to the story below of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. These two great missionaries paid a high price (in life and death) to stay faithful to their call on the mission field. If anyone had reasons for great fear, Elisabeth Elliot did. She inspires me, and I came away from her testimony today and repented of the doors I must have opened that allowed such fear in. I asked the Lord for forgiveness and deliverance from all fear. I asked Him to destroy it at the root and fill that empty cranny with Himself, His joy, His life, His peace, His boldness…and if it is His will and if He can use me again and trust me again to do a job, I ask for another chance somewhere, someday.