Have you ever experienced “intercession fatigue” due to frustration, negativity, and even anger towards those whom God has clearly called you to love and serve?
This can often be of particular challenge to cross-cultural missionaries due to culture stress.
Most long-term missionaries work through the grueling process of culture shock as they make a new country their home, but culture stress can compound at any point, especially in periods of transition.
My family and I are currently living in a small fishing village next to a Spanish language school where we are doing a 10-month, full-time language intensive. For the last four years, we have served in a more developed urban area, 13 hours away.
Moving here has definitely been a transition.
A couple of months into our new home and new schooling, we found ourselves escalating to those negative aspects of culture stress. We were all tired and getting snippy with each other.
One Friday evening my husband asked us all to pile into our Pilot: we were going out for tacos and hopefully would return in better spirits.
I well remember that twenty-five-minute drive.
Our children argued, our baby cried, my husband drove in silence, and I was thinking what a horrible person I was with a complaining heart — at the moment I wanted to close my eyes and not see another thing that reminded me of Mexico or hears another Spanish verb I was supposed to know how to conjugate correctly.
We arrived and slowly drove carefully through the streets of the town. Mexico is an outside culture, and so like the majority of cities, the roads were full of people and the activities of buying and selling and merely sitting on benches and curbs.
Out of the crowds, my eyes were drawn to an older man, hobbling on handmade wooden crutches, one ankle crudely wrapped in a dirty white cloth. I watched as he got himself on his 3-wheeled bike and, with what looked like great and painful effort, began to pedal.
“I want you to go to that man, and I want you to pray for healing,” I immediately heard the Holy Spirit instruct my heart.***
What? In my state of mind? Look at us right now! Not right now. I’m just so tired. Please, call someone else!
We tell our children to obey all the way, right away, and with a happy heart.
To do the contrary is never a good idea.
“Benjamin, the Holy Spirit is telling me to go and pray for that man, right now,” I said quietly to my husband, pointing out the man. He immediately pulled over and told the kids to sit tight, to pray and that we would return shortly.
He grabbed my hand, and we ran through the street together, weaving through the traffic and the people, our eyes on the yellow bike. I looked back and saw our hungry, wondering kids looking at their crazy parents chasing down a little man.
We reached the man who by now, was buying a juice. My husband introduced us and proceeded to tell him that we are Christians and what that meant. He explained that we love and serve a God who still speaks and that he had spoken to my heart about him. The man sat down on his bike seat and nodded, his face searching ours and listening.
Over the next ten minutes, Benjamin shared the gospel with him. When he was finished, the little man lifted up his hand in gratitude and nodded, two tears running down through his face’s wrinkled pathways. Ben wrapped an arm around the man’s shoulders and smiled at me.
I knelt down on that dirty street and gently cradled the man’s foot in my hands.
At that moment, it was like the world become mute to me as I stared at that worn, callused and dirty brown foot and the inflamed ankle.
All the “inconveniences” that constantly bombarded us in our little village, cumulating in culture stress, came to the surface of my mind. I thought of the “screaming lady” who drives the streets at 6am with a loudspeaker making town announcements and playing birthday songs. There was the crowing rooster farm next to us and the air polluted with burning garbage. Construction workers walked into our yard six days a week, their banging resonating as they built a house, right up against the room we use for a kitchen. One of the worst “offenders” were the neighbors on the corner who blare music at all hours. Barefooted children pattered onto our front “living room” porch and peered into our bedroom windows. And of course the tarantulas, scorpions and the resident iguana that gazes down at us from our clay-tiled ceilings. I was weary of tucking myself in at night under mosquito nets and running to the outside bathroom facilities in the dark. The inescapable heat and humidity never let up. Blockades of civil protest against government corruption randomly do not allow us into the nearest larger city to get to the bank and grocery store. All this, while trying to learn a new language.
I held that foot and prayed. My tears wet his makeshift bandage, and I prayed for God to heal with a grateful, absolutely humbled, and honored heart.
My values of privacy, order, cleanliness, and quiet have validity, but never over the ministry of the gospel.
You see friends, we are called to a people, to a land.
So are you.
And one of the most devious tactics of the enemy is to wear us down through the tendencies of the people we are called to love and serve — to the point where we are so appalled and weary, we stop praying.
If anyone had the right to stop interceding for a people, it was Moses.
You know the story of the habitually grumbling, disobedient and disbelieving people he was called to lead. Yet, the intercessory ministry of Moses throughout his divine assignment is astounding. When God tells him he will soon die and would never see the promised land, Moses’ prayer response (Numbers 27:15-17) is still intently fixed upon the welfare of those for whose sake he had been willing that his name should be blotted of out of the book (Exodus 32:32)!
Pray for your missionaries, that they do not so succumb to culture stress that they stop the ministry of intercession, to which, like Moses, they are called.
And may we all, lift high, above all else, the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ!