(Photo by Selma Komisky)
God’s Love Through the Eyes of a Missionary
By Michelle Ochen
As a little girl, I remember being fascinated with the mission board at church. Imagining what life was like for these people living in foreign countries, what adventures their lives held, what it might be like to be a missionary. They always seemed to have the biggest smiles on their prayer cards, leaving me with the conclusion that sharing Jesus’ love in faraway lands must be magical. Fast forward about ten years and I found my own smile on one of those prayer cards and a pocket full of adventurous stories and struggles. What I learned is that behind all of those smiles are moments of experiencing God’s love through different lenses. Some of joy and others of pain. I want to share a few of many ways I have seen God’s love through the missionary lens.
I have seen God’s love through His protection. In the Psalms, David says that he can lay down and sleep in peace because the Lord watches over him in his sleep (Psalm 4:8 paraphrased). After a long day of work, I forgot to properly lock the top balcony door with the metal frame and lockbox of the home we were living in, that night the thieves that had been studying our habits and living place noticed and used it to come into our home. I never stirred in the night but awoke to a feeling of something missing, both my professional camera and a computer were missing followed by a trail of obvious robbery. Did they use sleeping gas on me when they came into my room? Or did the Lord allow a deep sleep to come over me? How did I not hear them? What would of happened had I awoken to robbers in my bedroom! That morning although I felt robbed and sad by what was lost, I knew that God’s protection over me as I slept was a sear sign of His love for me. He also showed Himself as a restoring God when others who heard of the incident replaced the camera for me.
I have seen God’s love through comfort in loneliness. The missionary life brought along with it a suitcase of loneliness. Some days it was the stark reality that I stood out as a foreigner everywhere I went, other times it was feeling excluded from a conversation due to language barriers, sometimes a craving for a flavor from home that you could not access, and again other times the deep loneliness of being away from friends and family during special events and holidays. Loneliness is inevitable when you live in a country and culture that is not your own. In those times, I remember the Lord comforting with a reassurance of His nearness and a tangible empathy because He truly knew what it was like to go into a new place and dwell among a people to show His love. He came down from heaven to earth and dwelt among us away from His Father to show us His love and to set us free.
I have seen God’s love through the diversity of creation that He allowed me to see overseas. It is natural to think that the way you were raised to do things is most comfortable or even best, but when you are placed somewhere that you relearn how to do simple things in different ways, your perspective broadens and as you are humbled to receive something new you commonly find absolute beauty in diversity. From handshakes, to worship, to mopping; the things I have been able to observe and learn from other cultures has taught me more of God’s love in His creativity of design. He has made mankind so diverse and each culture unique and yet He loves us all the same and has made one way to salvation for us all. Ponder that reality for a moment. That is beauty and wonder and design. His love for us is great and stretches across seas, continents, languages, and traditions, He is seeking out hearts to pour out His love upon.
Lastly, I have seen God’s love through His children in faraway places. By the world’s standards we would describe them as poor, dirty, and unlearned, but I have seen more joy in their eyes than anywhere else, contentment to be envied, and a worship of the name of Jesus in a way that shows the wealth of faith.