Do You Want to Get Well?

by Judi Chow

I have never had the opportunity to step into the cancer ward of a hospital, but I know the ordeals of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Many missionaries have gone through these kinds of treatment, some recovered and some went “home” to be with the Lord. After several rounds of treatments, a friend decided enough is enough since all the treatments she went through didn’t work, hair lost is minor compared to the puffy-yellowish face with weakening strength and will each day. I don’t have to ask if she wants to get well; of course she does – leaving her husband and two teenagers behind is unbearable! I did ask if she will try other treatments; she told me it won’t make any difference since it is just a waste of time and money resulting in more torture and disappointment. My friend has lost faith in medical treatments; she wants to get well but she has no hope of getting well!

About two thousand years ago by the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, Jesus asked a man the same question: Do you want to get well? (John 5:1-9) Of course he did, day after day, year after year, lying there waiting – listening to the pain, smelling the sick, and watching people rushing into the pool – to get well. That’s why he replied to Jesus – how can I? No one helped me and I can’t help myself. (My interpretation) Maybe you don’t know what is it like to be a helpless invalid for 38 years, but you can imagine or even have experienced hopelessness. I assume this man wanted to get well but he had no hope of getting well!

A pastor who had three major brain surgeries has proclaimed health is not the most important thing in life. Maybe the surgeries affected the brain’s normal function? Don’t we all pray for health and wish for wealth? This pastor lives with a time-bomb in the brain and decreasing sensations in all four limbs and has proclaimed the most important thing in life is: HOPE! I didn’t ask if this pastor wants to get well, but by the continuing treatments, therapy, and exercise the answer is evidently yes. In this case, getting well is not as important as having hope. How true, as a counselor and missionary, I don’t have all the answers or solutions to people’s problems but I am there to instill hope.- hope not necessarily in the things we wanted or the health we seek but in a way out through Christ!

Jesus took away the question, the blame, and the doubt by commanding that man by the pool to get up, pick up his mat, and walk! Instant healing took place, restoration of strength on all four limbs happened before this man knew who did what. Out of so many people who wanted to get well, Jesus chose to heal that man and welcomed my friend “home” to be with Him. Why? Maybe He loves her more; maybe she has fulfilled her destiny. I can rationalize and justifiy but I am not in the position to question God’s decision. It’s a life-long learning of trusting and accepting His will is better than my will and His ways are higher than my ways.

When you feel stuck, no one seems to understand, no one is reachable to help, and no hope of getting well (physically or emotionally), please remember Jesus is only a prayer away. He can pull you out of that state of hopelessness!

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Why are You Afraid?

by Judi chow

One of the questions we ask missionary candidates for their Pre-field psychological assessment is, “What do you fear the most?” Let me share some of the answers here: snakes and rats, death and separation, sin against God, not being used by God, my parents die before accepting Christ, my child’s safety, getting seriously ill on the field, not able to accomplish my task as a missionary… the list goes on and on. Looking at these answers from missionaries now serving in different parts of the world, you can see that missionaries are also human beings with blood, sweat, and tears.

Often times, missionaries as well as church leaders tell me in tears they are scared. As a counselor, I can analyze the psychological causes of their fear like: feeling threatened, powerless, perceived danger, inadequacy, rejection, and guilt (genuine and false). Fear usually arises from lack of trust and when one falls into uncontrollable situations or the unknown. As a missionary, I know servants of the Lord are not immune to fear. Even Jesus’ disciples were really scared when their little fishing boat was about to be swallowed by the storm. They tried to wake Jesus up by shouting, “Lord, save us! We are going to drown!” The disciples really thought they were going to die, and Jesus responded with a question, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” (Matthew 8:23-26)

Every one of us has our own fears. I don’t know about you, but my number one fear is… believe it or not… preaching! Do you know why? Well, maybe I have been taught women ought not to preach and if I do, then I am being disobedient. Preaching is proclaiming God’s Word, and what if I don’t get it right, will I be leading people astray? What will people think of me then? Here, finally, I have come to the bottom line – my concern is about my performance, my face, me! I am just like the disciples focusing on the circumstances and my own well-being, having so little faith! I neglected the fact Jesus knows and He cares! Numerous times Jesus assures us, “I am here! Don’t be afraid.” (Matt. 14:27; Mark 6:50) I am getting better at conquering the fear of preaching now. I still sweat over sermon preparation and experience butterflies in the stomach before approaching the pulpit, but during delivery I try to stay tuned into Jesus’ comforting promise, “I am here! Don’t be afraid.

Fear did not go away completely as my faith factor still has room to grow. It is understandable for missionaries to be afraid, particularly when one doesn’t know a wave is a welcomed invitation or a hostile rejection. Facing the unknown and uncontrollable circumstances on the field without a support system can force a person to turn to Jesus or become self-reliant. I am sad to said, as I counsel missionaries in times of need or fear, their first answer usually is not Jesus!

Jesus’ question, “Why are you afraid?” is followed by what seems to me a rebuke, “You have so little faith!” Jesus didn’t stop there; he stood up and rebuked the wind and the waves showing the disciples He can calm the storm at sea as well as the storm in their hearts. Jesus’ presence and power overcame fear!

Next time when you are scared, focus on His promise, “I am here! Don’t be afraid.”

No Regrets?!

by Judi Chow

I have attended many funerals and memorial services recently, some were my friends and others were well-respected servants of the Lord ranging in age from twenty-something to over a hundred. They all left friends and family members behind to mourn for them, from parents to spouses to children to great-grandchildren. I also recall a funeral of a security guard of an apartment building. My friend was asked to officiate the ceremony since she is the only pastor he knew, and it turned out she was the only person there. This is sobering – how we spend our days will reflect upon what kind of impact we have on other people’s lives. This is the legacy we shall leave behind.

For the last several years, I have been talking about retiring although I am not at that age yet. I thought about opening a coffee shop/art gallery somewhere and go someplace to learn how to make a nice cup of Cappuccino. What’s wrong with me? Is it because of the feeling of bearing too much heavy responsibilities? Am I not doing what God has gifted me to do? No, I don’t have an identity problem or role confusion; I am called to serve the Lord in caring for the missionary community. I love training and counseling missionaries and enjoy writing about it also… But why the thought of leaving it all? Am I having a midlife crisis?

The fact is, I know I have reached a point in my life where my days lived are greater than my days left to live. This is a critical transitional period most people my age have to overcome, just like searching for identity during adolescence. Maybe this is triggered by the recent deaths of my peers as well as the appearing wrinkles and aging spots on my face. I cannot stay up all night to work anymore. I can accept my mortality. I know my days on earth are numbered. How should I make the best of what God has endowed me so I may hear “well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21) when I see Jesus face to face? Am I living a life with no regrets no matter if I have 10 years, 10 months, or 10 days to live?

In “The Bucket List” movie, two old guys, who have been given 6-12 months to live due to cancer, made a list of things to do before they die (kick the bucket). I know lots of people have made up their own bucket list and post it on the Internet for the world to see. Let me share with you some of them: Read the whole Bible; Get as many people as I can to know Jesus; Skydive; Get married and have kids; Be a missionary; Travel the world; Write a book… Etc. I assume doing these things will make one feel a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment. I don’t have a bucket list but there are things I’d like to do before I die, like setting up a missions village, seeing the seven wonders of the world, and riding in a real hot-air balloon. If I don’t do these things before I see Jesus, will I regret it?

As a woman going through midlife, what am I searching for behind these questions I ask myself?… Yes, I do want to finish well… by God’s standard! I want to be a good and faithful servant in HIS eyes! What if all of a sudden due to my own physical or mental limitations or the needs of my parents or for whatever reasons I can no longer be a missionary… what do I do then? Will I be really fulfilling God’s destiny for me by operating a coffee shop/art gallery somewhere in the world? Eric Liddell‘s famous line in the movie “Chariots of Fire” came to mind, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” He did run, not only in the Paris Olympics, but all the way to China as a missionary.

The bottom line for all of us in midlife to ponder is: Do I know whom God made me to be, and do I feel His pleasure in what I do? Are you in that transitional period when you think you might be heading for a midlife crisis? Do you want to live a life with no regrets no matter what you do and where you are?

If You are a Missionary…

by Judi Chow

A few years ago, we tried to launch a program called IOU40@wecare. It was an attempt for missionary candidates to spend 40 hours of intensive preparation as to follow Jesus’ example of 40 days of fasting and prayer before His public ministry. Satan came at the end of that 40 days when Jesus was hungry, tired, and vulnerable; the temptation posted as a challenge- “If you are the Son of God,” prove it by turning these stones into bread and by throwing yourself down from the temple top. In the midst of His physical weaknesses, Jesus answered with spiritual strength- “It is written” everytime. (Matthew 4:1-11)

I don’t remember ever hearing a voice challenging me- if you are a missionary, you should devote yourself totally in caring for the poor, praying for the sick, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, preaching the Gospel, planting the church, counseling the downcast, casting out demons, making disciples, training leaders, etc., etc. These are real needs which can be very demanding for any missionary, but when does being responsible became a dangerous temptation? When we forgot it is written, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

Missionaries usually don’t have to prove ourselves, right? We are sent to do these things. We are expected to be faithful and fruitful. We are to be servants and leaders. We do all these because we love the Lord, the lost, and… well maybe not ourselves! We get on that treadmill call ministry, start running and running until we are exhausted but not able to get off. I have known missionaries who worked so hard on the field, they had to be carried home on a stretcher. When did we forget it is written, “Be still and know that I am God?” (Psalm 46:10) The second half to this verse is, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

Maybe one of the best kept secrets buried deep in a missionary’s heart is the fear of not being use by the Lord. Satan knows our weakest link and that’s where he will lure us with his temptation. Someone said money, sex, and power are the greatest temptations. As we read from the news, many of God’s servants have fallen prey in the midst of their seemingly successful ministries. Not sure when their focus had shifted, rationalization began and the end justified the means. It is okay, it is for the sake of the Gospel! Somewhere along the way, it is forgotten, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

Jesus overcame Satan’s temptation by reciting God’s words from His heart. These words are not factual knowledge only, Jesus knew pleasing and honoring the Father is more important than working and reaping for the Father. Next time when you hear, If you are a missionary, don’t justify, just follow Jesus in His steps.

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

by Judi Chow

When my mom failed to reach my brother at his home or cell phone, she would call and ask me where my brother was. I usually would tell her he was probably out of town but inside I would say, how should I know… am I my brother’s keeper? Without realizing it, I quoted Cain’s answer when the Lord asked, “Where is your brother?” from Genesis 4:9. I might not be as evil as Cain trying to shed his responsibility after killing Abel, but that carelessness mentality is the same. It is not that I don’t care for my brother’s well being; it is just that we live thousands of miles apart, he is a grown man, and I have my own life, ministry, and other responsibilities. This might sound like excuses, but they are genuine reasons for me not knowing my brother’s whereabouts.

Let’s change the scene – suppose a missions director came to the village where a team of missionaries has been working together for three years. Attending their weekly prayer meeting and enjoying the fellowship meal afterwards, the director suddenly realized Missionary A (the only single missionary among the team) wasn’t there and asked, “Where is Miss. A?” “Oh yes, she hasn’t joined us for a few weeks now, must be busy.” Actually Miss. A had an emotional outburst during the last prayer meeting she did attend complaining the missionary couple and family didn’t understand her. The team members didn’t know how to respond and assumed she wanted more privacy, so they left her alone. It is not that they don’t care; it is just that they felt they are called to share the Gospel among the local people there. The family has young kids to home-school and the couple is busy discipling new believers. Excuses? No, these are genuine situations.

I don’t believe any missionary would answer, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” when being asked what happened that caused their fellow missionary to be so distant or depressed. It is just that most missionaries are very focused on their calling to obey the Great Commission to share the Gospel that they might fail to see the Great Commandment to love one another, which includes their fellow missionary. When God asked Cain, “Where is your brother?” He was giving Cain another chance to repent and respond with his conscience. God wanted Cain to search deep in his heart and soul to find a love for his brother instead of the needless jealousy he felt. God probably doesn’t ask us to keep our eyes on our brothers every single minute of the day, but He does want us to love one another. That love can be seen in our daily interaction with our brothers or coworkers.

God is still asking questions today, I am just wondering what kind of questions will He ask me at the end of the day. What about you, what is He asking you? Can you discern His voice?

Change and Exchange

by Judi Chow

Every few years or so missionaries go on furlough. May I remind you it means home assignment not vacation. On my furlough this time I heard some kind comments from old friends like “You look the same all these years, no change!” After observing my peers and talking with my sister about changes, we came to this conclusion- those who were smashingly handsome or stunningly beautiful in their prime seem to have changed the most in their appearance. Those of us who are average or not so good-looking seem to have kept a recognizable look after all the years- “no change.” Yes, our Creator is fair in this regard.

On a more serious note, I do believe to every change, there is an exchange no matter whether the change is external or internal, physical or emotional, intellectual or spiritual, plan or unplanned, welcomed or unwanted. No one can escape life changes, yet missionaries seem to endure more changes due to the nature of our life commitment. Usually people resist changes, yet missionaries have to embrace them. Beginning with a change of heart to our life’s direction, choosing the narrow path rather than the broad, to exchanging a sense of security for living by faith. Also, it’s pursuing holiness rather than worldliness, to leaving aging parents and soul-mates for strangers and lost souls, and exchanging praises from men for a “good and faithful servant” from the Lord.

The decision to make the change is only but a moment, yet the exchanges need to be made moment-by-moment. When the alien feeling finally subsides and ministry has taken root, it then seems to be time for another change. The cycle starts again, missionaries move on exchanging the familiar for yet another uncharted territory ahead. For some it could be stressful and overwhelming, yet for the servant of the Lord who heeds His call to walk this special path, it is full of adventures and blessings for He has promised to be with us until the end of the earth!

Some changes are inevitable and at times beyond our control, like the sudden news from the doctor’s office pronouncing there is cancer growing in your liver or a long distance phone call telling you your son was in a car accident… News like these can turn our world upside down. Yet especially in difficult times of unwanted changes, we must focus on the constancy of His unfailing love. As we live in this world of transience, can we choose to exchange the temporal for the eternal?

What changes are you facing and what are you exchanging at this point in life, my friend? As for me, in view of the consistency of change, I gladly exchange whatever for constantly holding onto His hand!

To Yoke or Not to Yoke – The Partnership Dilemma

by Judi Chow

In my more than 30 years of vocational service to the Lord, I have seen a lot of splits – in churches, in organizations, in teams on the mission field, and in Christian marriages. With each split, come the unavoidable pain and, at times, bitterness. Friends and colleagues suddenly became enemies and adversaries. I have yet to see a split that is done in a Godly manner. Some people even cite the Biblical example of Barnabas and Paul’s split in Acts 15, not necessary as a model to follow but as a permission to do so.

I am committed in team building as a preventive measure to do conflict resolution. I love to see people work together; therefore I have always been an advocate of partnership. In my thinking, two is always better than one! A few years back, the news from an email shocked me in disbelief, and then an overwhelming sadness hung over me. Two organizations I grew up with, ACMC [Advancing Churches in Missions Commitment] and Caleb Project joined partnership to form Initiative360 in July 1, 2006 then closed its doors on Feb 15, 2007. ACMC and Caleb Project which have thirty years of successful ministry separately serving churches and individuals in missions outreach did not survive more than seven months after the two became one!

A lot of people including David Mays, an ACMC associate, asked what went wrong? As a missionary facilitator, trainer, and counselor with such a passion for partnership, I ask what is God trying to teach me through this sad news? Two is not necessarily better than one? Good intentions and common goals are not enough to make the partnership successful? How much of it is human error and how much of it is satanic attack? I wonder… What if… I have many questions but few answers. I’ve also experienced a minor unsuccessful partnership endeavor awhile back and am still dealing with its ripple effect.

No, the seemingly unsuccessful partnership instances do not deter me from future attempts of forming new partnerships, but I will do so carefully, prayerfully, and slowly. Do not take anything for granted, both to men and to God communicate, communicate, and keep on communicating throughout the forming and establishing stages of the partnership process. To split is painful, to yoke is not necessary gain?!