Have you ever wondered, with all the changes going on around you, what is God doing? You are not alone! At our Women2Women about Mission Day in Brisbane on 16 June 2018, six missionaries shared their own experiences of change, reflecting on God’s words to His prophet in Isaiah 43:18-19: ‘…Do not dwell on the past… See, I am doing a new thing...’
Luba Yeoh opened the breadth of Scripture to us, tracing the way that God mysteriously worked in the past, as He does now, to bring about change. While the Jews exiled in Babylon were tempted to look back with longing to the grand scale of the Exodus, Isaiah’s words spoke of an even greater thing that God was doing. Though far smaller in number than the Hebrews who left Egypt for the Promised Land, those who returned from Babylon paved the way for the coming of Christ, the conversion of Gentiles and countless millions of people today who worship God around the world. And there is still a ‘new thing’ to come when, with the second coming of Jesus, all will understand God’s words through Isaiah: ‘Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear’ (Isaiah 45:23).
And within this unfolding story of God’s mission, Luba’s own story is one of change. After almost a decade of serving God in Asia, Luba and her family returned in 2016 to an Australia that had changed significantly, and with no clear idea of how she might be used by God in mission here. But God does not disappoint. She has discovered new opportunities through friendships with Asian people living here, and is sharing God’s missional heart with others through Missions Sampler workshops and through coaching of prospective missionaries.
Anna Southcott will move from suburban Sydney to Timor-Leste early next year with her husband Tim and their young family. To work in cross-cultural mission has been Tim’s dream since he was young. In a ‘Life Mission Statement’ in his final year at school, he wrote: I’d like to get married to a Christian woman and hopefully she will be willing to come with me to the mission field. In Anna, he has found a wife who not only shares his passion but also brings a nursing background in community and family health — such useful skills in a developing country. Anna recounted the unexpected twists and turns of their journey as they have managed family changes as well as changes to the location of their mission work and the timing of their departure since they first applied to MAF. Through all this — including the stresses — Anna is confident that God is ‘doing a new thing’.
Eight years ago, Fiona Thomas went to Cambodia to teach missionary children. Several years later, she changed direction, establishing a Babycare Centre to support women who have been rescued from sex-trafficking and who don’t have family members who can care for their babies while they are working. At W2W, Fiona shared how God has been stretching her comfort zone yet again. With the blessing of Bundaberg Bible Chapel and her local church in Siem Reap, she is now beginning a new role in pastoral care. The ‘things of the past’ are now in someone else’s hands as the Babycare will continue with two full-time local staff under the direction of a local church. This releases Fiona to provide support and encouragement to missionaries in Siem Reap, especially those who are new to the country or who are isolated from others.
‘Not pondering the things of the past’ has been an important lesson for Leann Buckley to learn in her experiences in Nepal. Soon after they arrived in 2015, a major earthquake brought devastation to the country. Even more devastating on a personal level, was the loss of friendships they had made and the home they had built, due to very difficult circumstances. But God is faithful; the ‘new thing’ that He is preparing them for has exceeded their dreams. They have been able to renovate a building that will house a café and other businesses that will bring employment and hope to the most vulnerable women. Excellent staff are already in place. Future plans include a safe house, a school and a farm. The pain of the past has been replaced with the excitement of girls’ lives being transformed.
For Merryn Fawssett, life in multi-faith Birmingham, where she supported Tim’s work with The Feast, was rich with friendship and variety. When God made it clear that it was time to return to Australia, it would have been easy to ask: What on earth is God doing? And the transition has not been smooth as they cope with unfamiliar education systems for the children, new jobs for Merryn and Tim, and the challenge of leaving old friends and making new ones. But they are discovering that suburban Brisbane has become far more multicultural since they left it (a trip through any local shopping centre attests to that). And so God is using their experiences in England not only to help them see people who are different from us as people to be loved, not as problems to be afraid of, but also to challenge us to do the same.
Given the challenge of being our final speaker, Belinda Lamprecht began with a story from home. When the family was almost ready to make the journey from Johannesburg to Perth just weeks earlier, they discovered with horror, that Micah’s passport was no longer valid. After prayer and a desperate visit to the embassy where it seemed to be an impossibility to get the passport ready so quickly, the waiting game began. In all this, as a cautious mum wanting to prepare her children for disappointment, Belinda kept saying, “Don’t get your hopes up.” Finally Micah exclaimed, “I WILL get my hopes up!” How often we lack the faith and courage of a child! Reflecting on the faith (and failures) of Moses as God used him to guide the Israelites through a time of huge change, Belinda invited us into the times of her own life where the ways of God had seemed so difficult to comprehend. Most recently, the family has shared the disappointment of being unable to adopt a much-loved child who had joined their family for a time. Yet through this experience, Belinda is even more committed to the planning of a conference about adoption that will take in South Africa soon. When God’s ways seem hard to comprehend, we need to follow Micah’s example and ‘get our hopes up’ because of what God has done in the past and what He will do in the future.
Over 100 women were encouraged and challenged by the faith journeys of these six women who have trusted God even when they might have been asking: What on earth is God doing? The theme of God’s faithfulness in the midst of change was also woven through the day in music, in dance, and through a monologue where Natalie Meehan took the role of Naomi (from the story of Ruth), tracing the anguish of burying a husband and adult sons in a foreign country, her return to her homeland destitute, and her eventual delight in becoming the great-great-grandmother of a boy who would become King David of Israel.
We are grateful to God for the hospitality of Bellbowrie Community Church, for those who provided craft stalls and generously donated their takings to support women and mission — and for a beautiful winter’s day that was warm enough for us to sit outside under the sails for our delicious soup and dessert.
By Wendy Strachan & Jeanette Newton