In the fall of 2004, while my wife, Sandra, and I had been serving as pastors at Kennedy Road Tabernacle in Brampton, Ontario, I began to sense that the Lord was calling us to the mission field. We answered the call, arriving in Thailand in August 2005. Over more than 10 years of serving in missions, we learned innumerable things about ourselves and others. Here’s our top 10 list.
10. Jesus is enough, and now we know what that means.
It was so hard at that stage of life to leave a great church, a district we knew, and friends and family and go to a place where, whatever you did before, unless it was missions, really didn’t matter. We felt like we lost everything we had earned through years of ministry. But when all that was peeled back, we returned to the core truth that Jesus is enough. Our identity isn’t in what we do or who we are—it is in who He is and what He’s done in us. It took losing all our safety nets, titles, reputation, respect and securities to understand this.
9. Missionaries are just people.
One of our first memories of a missionary was at Evangel Temple in Napanee, Ontario. I don’t remember the person, but I do remember it was said that they had “the highest calling,” and I developed this idea that missionaries had a halo around their heads. This concept was reinforced when Sandra was at a women’s conference and some missionaries were introduced. The person beside her said to her, “Here comes royalty.” And then we worked with missionaries and quickly realized that missionaries are just people—people who have trouble with their kids and argue with their spouse and get frustrated and sometimes might be mean and selfish. I know this because I’m describing myself.
8. Even with huge cultural differences, most people outside the West value faith and family.
We had some time in Delhi, so we hired a Sikh driver to take us around to see the sights. After chatting for a while, we asked about his family; he lit up as he told us about his children. He then asked if he could take us to his temple to show us where he worshipped and we said, “Of course.” What we remember about the temple is that it was a burning hot day and we had to take off our shoes to enter the compound; it was like walking on fire. The driver showed us the temple. He showed us their holy books. Out of that we were able to tell him about our faith. What was of greatest importance to him was his family and his faith, and we found these to be great connection points.
7. God uses us best when we’re completely helpless.
When we don’t know what to do, when we don’t have the practiced answer, when we’re outside our comfort zone and area of expertise, when all we’re left with is our dependency upon God—it’s in those moments that faith engages and the Spirit can do something extraordinary.
6. We don’t like feeling helpless.
5. We need a move of God in our own lives that causes us to live as kingdom-minded people at every level of our influence.
Craig Groeschel wrote a book entitled The Christian Atheist, where he coins the phrase “functional atheism.” By this he means that other than trusting God for salvation, many followers of Jesus live in such a way that they don’t need faith for anything. They live their daily lives like God doesn’t exist and confine Him to their private devotions and church attendance. This is far below the level of supernatural engagement that the Lord intends.
4. We need to be surrounded by inspirational people and not just be the centre of inspiration.
This is a real hazard of leadership. We’re always giving out. We’re always encouraging. We’re always guiding. But often we don’t have anyone pouring in. We need to find people who will inspire us to keep going and continue moving forward.
3. A regular, deliberate spiritual retreat is essential to spiritual health.
About two years ago, Sandra and I felt like we were losing our edge and we were weary in well doing. We had the classic symptoms of compassion fatigue. We were worn out and hadn’t intentionally taken time away to be spiritually recharged for a very long time. So, over an Easter weekend, we went to a church in the U.S. We attended services and spent a lot of time in a prayer room overlooking mountains. It was refreshing and encouraging and enabled us to reboot and then move on.
2. Even with Jesus, we still became annoyed at some cultural differences.
In Asia, many people have a different comprehension of the impact of immediate actions. Here are some examples. A person will be going down an escalator, and when they come to the bottom and they aren’t sure which way to go, they will just stop and stand right where you get off the escalator. Or a person will be driving and see a store where they want to grab something, and they will stop in the driving lane and leave their car parked there while they go in. Or you’ll have a meeting and the people are more interested in being together than in getting business done, so the meeting lasts for hours and you’re no further ahead on issues than you were when you started. We loved living in Asia and loved the people, but some of the cultural differences drove us crazy. We have no doubt that for some of the people we met, the feeling was mutual.
1. We’ve met the most amazing people in the past 10 years who live only to bring hope to hopeless people.
I sat across the table from a pastor in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I asked him if he had ever been imprisoned for his faith and he said, “Yes, three times.” I asked him if he could describe what it was like, and he told me briefly about the torture, the deprivation, and the concern for his church and family. Like a good Canadian I replied with shock, “That’s horrible! For no other reason than that you love Jesus!” He looked at me as if I was from a different planet and responded with these words: “Horrible? The last time I was in prison, I led 16 people to Jesus. How can that be horrible?” And I knew I was sitting with a spiritual giant.
Sandra and I met the most amazing and inspiring people whose commitment and sacrifice are stunning and whose love for Jesus is amazing. They live only to bring His peace and forgiveness to those who don’t yet know Him. It’s been an honour to know and walk beside those who live and serve in Southeast Asia.
- Craig Groeschel, The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as if He Doesn’t Exist (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010).
Peter and Sandra McIntosh are former regional directors for the Southeast Asia region and are currently serving as the newly elected lead pastors at Bethel Pentecostal Church in Ottawa, Ont.
This article appeared in the September/October issue of testimony, a bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. ©2016 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. This content is provided as a free sample of testimony. Subscribe for full access to the complete magazine.