It has been a little over a month since we have returned back to the mission field of Belem, Brazil after our summer 'home-assignment' in the US. I am hesitant to call it a furlough because I believe furlough would include a time of rest and recuperation; however, this was not a time for that. We had a very clear purpose and objective(s) for this time and so this home-assignment trip was really one where we were needing to raise more support for our work. It is a wonderful thing to be the ones starting and leading a new church and new ministries in a different country, a different culture, and different language...but, it is not for the weary.
The return from 'furlough' was not easy. It could have been that we had over 10 churches to visit in a 6 week time frame coupled with trying to visit family/friends, doctors appointments, and also get some college visits in for our oldest son that wore us out a little, but whatever it was, it was harder to return to the field this time than it had been 2 years prior. The last 'furlough' we had was very different as well. There was more time to rest and there was this whole new work we were about to start once we returned to the mission field so there was a lot of excitement. However, this time...it has been tough. The work has already begun for the last couple of years and while it has been amazing the spiritual warfare and oppression that comes with working in the very dark and evil places our ministries are in can be hard to step back into. We knew what was waiting for us upon our return this time, and for me it felt like stepping back onto the front lines of the battlefield while still wounded, and weak.
This summer my oldest son, Aidan, and I took a very quick rode trip to Wheaton, IL to visit Wheaton College. While in Illinois we visited The Chicago Art Institute and spent some time exploring the Medieval art collections. There were exhibits of battlefield soldiers and their armour spanning hundreds of years, and each generation their armour evolved becoming more and more protective, more shielding, and stronger until there was hardly any part of the soldiers actual body exposed. It would have been very difficult for anything to penetrate these soldiers armour. Of course, in this situation, I was reminded of Ephesians 6:11 and putting on the whole armour of God. I really began to think about what is lacking in my armour that makes me feel like a wounded soldier on the field sometimes, but even after I take a personal assessment and find my weaknesses and refortify myself I realize I'm still struggling in our battlefield even with the full armour on. I could easily condemn myself for not being strong enough and for feeling weak, but the Lord's Word gently reminds me that, ' “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." ' (2 Cor. 12:9).
So, here I am...boasting in my weakness. I am often weakened, injured by some of the enemy's attacks, and/or struggling through a thick fog of spiritual oppression just trying to walk through it to get back to the light. I never had this incessant spiritual fight before when I was in my home country, things were easier, the fight was different, and the enemy attacked in different ways. However, here on the front lines of the battlefield, the fighting is bloody and messy with attacks from all around. We are in the enemy's kingdom and he hates us and we can feel this. Fighting an unseen and unrelenting enemy is hard, it can wear you down, but it does not wear us out. It is only by the power of Jesus Christ that we are able to continue fighting and interceding for the lost souls in the dark streets and alleys of Belem. I am comforted knowing that I am not the only one who has felt tired, weak, and often desiring to be at home with the Lord in heaven then here on earth contending with the enemy, but we continue. Even though we may limp, and stagger through some parts of our battle here on the mission field, I know that we will not be defeated, we will not quit and the glory of the Lord will prevail.