Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Frantic Questions; His Gentle Answers - part two

our little family in 2008, newly arrived in Costa Rica
This post is a continuation from yesterday's, when I shared some of the story of our first couple of years of living and working in Costa Rica.  I did not follow the "normal" cycle of cultural adaptation; I completely skipped the honeymoon phase, and went straight into major culture shock less than 48 hours after landing in Costa Rica!  In addition to culture shock, I was adjusting to life as a mom (we moved here when our firstborn was 3 months old), and trying to figure out how I fit in a ministry organization that really didn't have a place for me.  (My husband is a structural engineer and was working with an organization of engineers and architects; I am a linguistics major who focused on Slavic linguistics... now living in Costa Rica.)

Throughout those first 18 months, I cried many tears, and, like I shared yesterday, my mind and heart got to a state of being consumed by confusion, doubt, hurt and fears.  And, now, ladies, I'm drawing a deep breath and wincing a little at being this vulnerable, but I got to a point one day that I was crying and trying to pray, and then realized I was literally yelling aloud, "I hate it here, God!"  Oh, was I thankful my neighbors didn't speak English!  It was at that point of brokenness that I went to the Lord, journal and pen in hand, and finally brought my frantic questions to Him with a heart ready to listen to His gentle answers.  When I looked back at the journal page to write these posts, I realized that I wrote the questions as if they were being fired at me, in an almost accusatory way, making it so clear to me now how these questions were coming both from my flesh and from the enemy.

My frantic question: Wouldn't you be more effective if you could minister in your native language?

This question really got me, because, frankly, I had a really fun, satisfying, effective ministry in the States before we moved to Costa Rica.  For years, I had invested a lot in international student ministry, and once I finished grad school, I taught English as a Second Language to immigrants and refugees at a local community college.  I loved how both the international student ministry and my teaching allowed me to build relationships and share Christ with people from literally all over the world... in English!  It was a dream!  I knew that I would eventually leave behind that dream job, but it still hit me hard when we moved here for a position with a ministry that was a great fit for my husband, but one in which I didn't even really have a role.  Language learning was a huge struggle for me as a new mom, and it was an adjustment to go from being the teacher to the student again.  It was so, so easy to dwell on how much more of a ministry I perceived I had in the States.  Additionally, I had anticipated using English as a ministry tool, and it wasn't really working out here in our rural town.

His gentle answer (as I wrote it in my journal): Let's go with My idea of effectiveness, not yours, Sarah.  I see people's hearts; you can't.  Has it not occurred to you that I can more effectively change your heart and sanctify you through what you are experiencing here? 

That wasn't what I was expecting!  I actually remember thinking, "Do I have such a hard heart that I have to be experiencing all this to change it!?"  How special, though, to be reminded that it is only God who knows people's hearts, that any ministry I have is truly His, and that He has so much work to still do in my heart!  It's His harvest field, and He is the one who truly changes hearts.

And, I will say that now, six years later, I'm fairly proficient in Spanish (thank God!), and I can see fruit of ministry that God has given me.  I also have such a bigger understanding of who it is that is really ministering.  We are His tools, gifted with the privilege of being used by Him to plant, cultivate, and harvest fruit.  But, that actual harvest is His!  And, so often, He is doing a great work in our hearts. 

Have you questioned if you could have a more effective ministry in the States?  What has God spoken to you about that? 

Please come back tomorrow for part three.  I have some more to share with you about this! 


  1. Wow, Sarah, we really do need to meet for coffee face to face some day!! I also was a linguistics major that found who specialized in languages completely other than that of where i live and serve now, and also worked in international student ministry before moving overseas. I also had no honeymoon phase and also moved overseas with our first baby. What a crazy small world! =)

    And I can so relate to your questions about effectiveness. It has been a process for me too, to fully realize that effectiveness cannot always be measured by statistics. I have always known this to be true, but it is a struggle when comparing two different ministries that you've been a part of when you feel like the current one is less visibly effective. Lots of hard questions and times to learn to trust the Lord's call and wisdom, and that He is accomplishing things of eternal value that we just can't always measure. And I love your point about how a lot of it is about how God works in our lives too, through these struggles. It is so easy for me to think about the ministry and other people and to forget that God's work in my own life matters too. He values fruit of all kinds, and some of that valuable fruit is what he does in our lives as missionaries. That is so easy for me to forget! Thank you for that important reminder today!

    1. Wow, Ashley, our stories do have so many similarities! We have to meet and talk over pumpkin spice lattes someday! =) I would love that.

      Thanks for sharing and for your encouragement.