On 24th January, we left for Uruguay as missionaries with the Church Missionary Society (CMS). We had been waiting and preparing for this moment for many years, so despite many unknowns, we felt as ready as we would ever be. With no other missionaries (Australian or otherwise) to greet us or help us settle in when we arrived, we knew the first month would be particularly rough. And it was!
Within the first week of arriving, three out of the four of us came down with a really nasty virus. Then, with only a few days’ notice, we needed to find new short-term accommodation because our original accommodation was getting a new roof and renting a place long-term was proving much more complicated than we had expected. Because of our ignorance and inexperience (we didn’t know what to buy, nor where to buy it), food seemed so expensive and we just felt hungry all the time. We had been told things get better after the first year, but I wasn’t sure if we were going to survive long enough to know. Yet here we are, six months in. We’re alive—and not begging CMS to send us home! We’ve probably aged six years in six months, but God’s grace to us has been more than sufficient—his goodness to us has been abundant.
Here are three lessons God has been teaching us in our time here so far:
1. God’s timing is impeccable
Whether the timing seems perfect or terrible to us, God is in control and wants us to trust him with every detail and every moment—from construction workers hammering above our apartment the moment our baby goes down for a nap, to a parcel delivery from Australia (that we had given up on) arriving after a particularly stressful 4-hour trip to the bank… oh, and a world pandemic breaking out five weeks after we moved. God ordains every one of these moments.
2. We can rejoice because Jesus has ransomed us and given us a place in heaven
This is true even when our ability and capacity to do simple, everyday tasks have been reduced to almost nothing. Jesus says so, in Luke 10. Here, his disciples are super excited about the power they’ve been given to do amazing things for God. But Jesus tells them to rejoice instead in the fact that their names are written in heaven. It’s been a constant challenge not to feel sad about being useless and unproductive, and I (Joy) am constantly tempted to rely on what I’m able to do in order to feel good about myself. But Jesus’ words have both rebuked and comforted me—I can and should rejoice!
3. Our vision is long-term and we can be patient because God is our Father
Over these last six months, we’ve felt like infants barely able to lisp out a spontaneous sentence in Spanish. We’ve needed to remind ourselves that our vision is long-term, with this time of infancy a necessary part of our service to the people of Uruguay. If anything, these months have brought about a whole lot more growth in us than any growth we could expect to bring about in others. While we are infants our God seems particularly big; our Father, who loves and faithfully cares for his (very) little children in every little thing. So although we desire to grow in our ability to communicate and share the gospel of Jesus, we also need to take hold of this truth of God’s love for his children—a truth we are feeling so tangibly now—and never let it go.