The last few days have been nothing short of amazing! Thirty-five missionaries and their views gathered together in Belarus at a conference focusing on “Seasons of Life and Ministry.” What was unique about this gathering was that the missionaries were able to bring their wives. I was heartbroken to learn that for most of them, this was the first time they had ever had time away together for others to minister to them.
Ruslan M, our SGA Regional Ministry Center Director in Irpin, Ukraine, and his wife Gulmyra were stopped at the border for five hours while they travelled to the conference. But they rejoiced! That was five hours of time they had together alone that they had not had in years.
Faithful Believers in Christ
Most of the faithful men and women who came are village pastors and their wives, small church pastors whose responsibilities range from preacher and teacher to plumber and taxi driver. They have small churches ranging from 10 to 20 people, have part time jobs to make ends meet, and pour their lives into the people they shepherd. These couples are my heroes of the faith. They might be names many will not remember, but they are faithful believers who give their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Most will never write a book with their picture on the cover, nor have a huge church that many will talk about. But these are the faithful men and women God has raised up to preach the Gospel and minister to people in their communities — one life at a time.
I heard story after story of birthing, raising, and in too many cases, burying children. Also, stories of suffering, stories of hardship, and overwhelming stories of faithful, joyous commitment to serve their Lord Jesus with all of their hearts and lives. These missionary wives, who care for children, care for the church, and protect their husband’s heart with warmth and love, are Proverbs 31 women. These are men who only aspire to preach the Gospel and see faithful, fruitful followers of Christ. Most humbly spoke of a thousand things they did wrong, a few things they did right, and their undying commitment to the Gospel and the church.
A Cup of Cool Water
They ache for revival, pray for their people to be witnesses of Christ, and for whole communities to be won to Christ. Yet, this is not ambition but devotion as they minister year after year in these small churches. And all of them spoke of how the brothers and sisters who support them through SGA are that cup of cool water that keeps them moving forward.
My wife Kristi and I, who have a village church ourselves that I pastor and we care for, sat with them for hours answering questions and providing counsel. And as we left, with both tears and joy, we realized this simple truth — although separated by geography, language and culture, we are one family, one people, striving side by side for the sake of the Gospel. These village pastors and their wives are true heroes of the faith.