It isn’t unusual to step foot off the plane, onto foreign soil, into your new mission work, and find yourself faced with doubts or worries or fears. Stepping into the unknown has that effect, no matter how excited you are. The reality is that it is overwhelming to buy a one-way ticket, disembark the plane, haul your luggage (all 16 pieces) off the conveyor belt and know you won’t be dropping it off again at the counter, boarding a plane or using a return ticket in a matter of weeks. There is an incredible sense of finality in beginning a journey like this. Sometimes that finality brings any number and variety of fears.
If you can face your fears, you can do anything. Face them with head held high, and iron determination, then you can overcome them. I believe that. I believe that because I have lived that. Don’t think I say that with arrogant pride. I don’t. I’ve lived that because I’ve been at the miserable depths of my fears. I overcame them because I had to. I chose to. My being in Vanuatu attests to that. I could have given it all up and retreated to the safety of my life in the U.S. But, I didn’t. And it wasn’t easy. It was a difficult road. I had to tell myself over and over that I could do this. Convince myself of it until I believed it. I had a talent (and still do) of drumming up every fear in the book! When I’m afraid of something, I can think of a million reasons why I should avoid it at all costs.
“I’m a wimp about some things.” (This is true. I really am sometimes.)
“Think of what could happen to me!” (Think of what could happen anywhere, at anytime.)
“There’s too many bad men that could hurt me.” (Yes, that‘s true.)
“The lifestyle there is too primitive.” (I don‘t even like outhouses while camping.)
“The people are too different!” (Am I so normal?)
“What if no one thinks I’m funny!” (I didn’t know it at the time, but, Ni-Vans LOVE a good prank!)
“It’s so far away!” (I can think of several people who were very supportive of my holding on to that fear.)
“Aaron will have to travel and I’ll have to stay home alone” (Like he wouldn’t ever travel in the States?)
Excuse, after excuse, after excuse. There never seemed to be a shortage! It isn’t that some of them weren’t valid. Some were, but others were not. There ARE men in Vanuatu who are too interested in white women and are up to no good. The people ARE different. It IS a long way from home. All true. All valid. But all excuses. Excuses that were a bi-product of my fears. The truth is that your fears have as much power as you choose to give them.
Is your family on your case because the mission field is taking you so far away? Probably. But, that’s what mission work does – sometimes it takes you far away. How much power are you going to give your family (and sometimes your friends) over your decisions? Are you living your life or are they? Sometimes, facing your fears means taking a stand with your family, loving them whole-heartedly, but walking through the doors that God is opening for you even if it causes a little familial friction.
Are you being assaulted night and day by the fear of the unknown? All those hundreds of unknown things that could, just maybe, possibly, happen to you should you make this decision to do overseas mission work.
I know all about being assaulted by those fears. I agonized over them for several weeks trying to commit myself to this HUGE life change. And even after I made the commitment, I went back and forth. Some days I was strong – I was ready for the adventure of my future. And other days I was weak – I didn’t feel like jumping into this new, strange life. But, how many things would ever get done if we always succumbed to what we feel like doing? I can tell you right now that I have a sink full of dirty dishes that need washing. And believe me – I do not feel like doing them! Not one bit. But, I will. Because I must.
It’s just like when I began our mission work in Vanuatu. Some days I didn’t feel like doing it. It was too much effort and there were too many unknowns. But, I did it. I did it because I had to. I made the commitment. For better or worse. And you know what? To my utter and complete surprise and joy, there was a whole lot more better than worse. With time and determination I found myself here because this is where I wanted to be. No excuses. It doesn’t mean that my fears are gone. I’m like everyone else – constantly battling against the attacks of Satan in the face of my fears. I know that’s what fear is – an attack of Satan trying to convince you that you aren’t good enough. That it’s too difficult to attempt something so far-reaching for the Lord. So, I made a choice, I refuse to let Satan rule my life. That’s a job for Jesus. Because of that I refuse to let Satan rule my life through those fears. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) And how powerful that strength is! I choose to give Him control. Not my excuses. Not my fears. My mind and my heart are constantly overwhelmed at how these blessings – the unexpected friendships, the immeasurable joy of taking part in someone’s conversion, seeing these people I love grow in their faith – are “far more abundantly beyond” all that I asked or thought (Ephesians 3:20). I had to decide that I didn’t want to be content to sit back and wait out these five years hoping I could “hold out till our time was up.” Mission work isn’t a prison sentence – it’s a gift from God and a work of service to Him! I had to decide to live, really live and experience and fill myself with the blessings that this life had to offer. How vast those blessings are!
By Cindy Baker
Cindy and her husband, Aaron, have lived and worked with the Lord’s church in the South Pacific country of Vanuatu since April of 2005. They have two little girls, Kaela and Malia. For more information on their family and work, check out the team’s website at www.missionvanuatu.com and the Baker family’s weblog (click here).
Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Cindy Baker’s book entitled, “Lord, Give Me Pretty Feet.”