It was an unusual photo for a mission partner to post on social media. Not a sunset or a selfie, nor a ministry shot or holiday snap.
It was a picture of a room with piles of paper work strewn across the floor in what evidently made perfect sense to the person to whom they belonged. My eye went to the comments below:
'Will pray now!'
'Much prayer for you all'
Then I read words that give every mission partner cause for concern and made sense of the photo shared: ‘red tape’. The nitty-gritty of gospel partnership will often look like praying for and with people simply seeking permission to remain in the country they serve.
These 40 or so bits of paper were the evidence of one family doing just that – applying for the right to stay for one more year. Visa applications can present significant stress for missionaries and their respective organisations. They also test our resolve to rest in God’s sovereignty. Humanly speaking, one Home Affairs official on an off day can change the direction of an individual or family’s entire life at the stroke of a pen.
Why would anyone put themselves through this kind of trial? In short, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Every birth certificate, police clearance document, medical record, letter proving employment and actual application form is worth it for the sake of lifting up the name of Jesus in countries in which there is otherwise a scarcity of Christian witness.
The beaurocracy of Home Affairs would break many if it wasn’t for this greatest of human ambitions and trust in God’s authority over state authorities. Yes, sometimes a visa denied is the Lord’s doing that moves a person into different ministry terrain. But, time and again, prayers are answered and doors are opened for gospel witness to remain alive through the presence of foreign mission partners.
There is no such thing as a missionary lone-ranger. Which helps answer the next question: how does anyone put themselves through this kind of trial?
In short and as the story above shows, with the help of a band of committed prayer partners who trust that God is sovereign in the affairs of his people scattered around the world. This is self-evident in the Apostle Paul's words, 'Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us too, that God may open a door for our message that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.’ (Colossians 4:2 – 3)
What was the ‘opening’ Paul had in mind? Engaging a prison guard in conversation to explain the Christ for whom he was in chains? Or was it a literal open door, enabling him to leave jail? Who knows? No doubt the impenetrability of the Roman authorities crossed Paul’s mind as much as a missionary today faces the complexity of a Home Affairs official and dreaded visa applications. The point is, Paul’s first port of call is to enlist prayerful partners who will struggle in prayer on his behalf (Romans 15:30).
Praying is the seed bed of true partnership. But it’s just the start.
Other aspects of a vibrant, healthy mission partnership might not be as obvious. This is why Crosslinks has put together a video resource aimed at helping churches and individuals know what partnership in overseas mission can look like.
Caring, giving, suffering, going and longing – each has its place alongside praying. Find out more.
We've put together a series of videos to introduce you and your church to six things that we think are essential to gospel partnerships.
Find out more
Jamie was Director of Misison Partnerships at Crosslinks from 2016 – 2021. Before this, he was a Crosslinks mission partner in South Africa and worked in local parish ministry in the UK. Jamie now works with St Nicholas Church in Sevenoaks.
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