Serving overseas is tough. In all of the places where we work, one of the difficult things our people face is working out how to respond to opposition.
What do you do when publicly standing up for your faith could lead to opposition from government or society? By opposition, I am not talking about the sort of derision we can face here in New Zealand, but the real possibility of having your visa cancelled, or significant parts of your ministry curtailed. Even worse, sometimes foreigners get away with things, while a local co-worker becomes the scapegoat. What makes it doubly difficult is that while you know that there are lines you should not cross, these lines are rarely explicit. They are not like the lines on a sports field; rather they are lines in the sand that are redrawn in a different place after every high tide. It can be exhausting having to navigate this, and it often takes years to sense where the lines are.
In situations like this, wisdom is called for! So often mission work proves the truism that “good things take time.” It is amazing the doors that God opens when you respect the local context, and prove yourself to be one who honours the authorities. Yet, at the same time, God calls us to boldly proclaim Christ:
[The Sanhedrin] called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:18-20
One commentator puts it this way: “In an age when many avenues are available to avoid suffering and therefore many Christians have left out suffering from their understanding of the Christian life, Acts presents a church that took on suffering for the cause of Christ and considered it a basic ingredient of discipleship.”*
Pray for our overseas workers. This is not an easy tension to live with. And perhaps we should pray for ourselves too. Is suffering an ingredient in our discipleship here in New Zealand? If the answer is yes, praise God. If the answer is no, is that because of the freedom of our society, or how we choose to live within it?
Tranzsend Team Leader
* Fernando, A. (1998). Acts (p. 41). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.