Cleaning out the team house kitchen sink drainage trap that smells rancid in 100+ degree heat.
Setting your alarm for the middle of the night to walk across the compound with your headlamp to check a teammate’s temperature or clean out their barf bucket.
Waiting by to console a teammate you know is on a phone call receiving news of a parent’s terminal illness diagnosis without knowing what to say or do.
Eating with a table full of your teammate’s friends and work colleagues when your week has been a “missionary failure” by all human standards and your preference would be watching TV shows in bed.
Taking your turn in the dinner rotation by cooking a hopefully well balance meal from scratch for 6 or 10 people every Tuesday when you were clear with the team upon your arrival on the field that your least favorite household responsibility is cooking, and that your pre-field repertoire consisted primarily of Ramen noodles and Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese.
Sitting in capital city offices with folders full of papers; forms with every “t” crossed and every “i” dotted, with signatures and letters of recommendation from every person you know with a title of some sort; hour after hour, office after office, never knowing who is going to require what from you at any given time, possibly rendering useless your 7 hours one-way in a vehicle on some of the worst roads in the world, all in hopes of becoming a legally recognized local NGO.
Standing on top of a black plastic water tank all day in the equatorial sun and 100+ degree heat troubleshooting and trying to restore water flow to the team compound, when you already spent most of the day doing the same for 3 other taps in the community and you’re bone-tired.
This is love. This is sacrifice. By this He will be known.
This is what sacrificial love looks like in rural Mundri, South Sudan. Ask Serge staff in urban Europe and they’ll be able to give you a similar list…similarly sacrificial, similarly loving, similarly necessary for life as a team, it’s only the details that are different.
Fulfilling your job description is important. Our work in the community is vitally important to our roles as missionaries. But often I forget that perhaps equally important is our sacrificial love for our teammates.
Why sacrificial? Because Jesus said so. Because Jesus did so.
Scripture says “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. We ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
Laying Down Your Life
To “lay down” one’s life…what does that actually mean?
I’m no theologian, but if you lay something down, it seems the purpose is to enable you to pick something else up. It involves a shift of focus and energy.
Like the toddler you see moving around the room, picking up one toy, laying down one thing in order to pick up the next thing. In order to focus their time and energy and excitement on the new thing, they have to lay down the old thing or else it doesn’t work very well…the whole double fisting thing is complicated.
So, how do you “lay down” your LIFE?
Jesus did so by becoming man and living among us. He “laid down” his life at the right hand of the father – leaving heaven and coming to earth to live among us fallen people. Jesus did so in his death for us. He was without sin, yet took on OUR sin and died because of it.
He “laid down” His perfection and heavenly comfort to “pick up” our fallenness and sin.
Whether in South Sudan or Vienna we’ve already chosen to “lay down” our life of creature comforts and/or cultural and relational familiarity in order to “pick up” the life and culture of a new place, in order to focus our time and energy on their needs and the ways we are well suited to come alongside them where they are – giving witness to God’s grace at our fray.
Instead of stopping there with the thought that “My life is already laid down,” we must see that there is more of life to be laid down. Everyday!
The brothers and sisters on our team who need our focus of time and energy, at a cost, with sacrifice to our own time and energy… there is more of life to be laid down.
My guess is that the more intertwined and closely dependent you are on your teammates for various parts of life, the more sacrifice that’s required of each person.
A former Bundibugyo, Uganda team member and support coach told me when I was preparing to leave for the field, “Life in Bundibugyo is the best preparation for marriage.” I haven’t had the chance to test her theory in completion, but after spending 3 years in Bundibugyo, and after walking with countless friends through their first several years of marriage, my guess is that this comment stems from the mandatory lesson of sacrifice.
Life, sanity and survival, dependent on a team of a dozen or two sinners WILL REQUIRE compromise, and compromise requires sacrifice, and sacrifice, the way Jesus did it, requires love.
I can tell you right now that the volume of love that any of said sinners possesses for any of the other sinners waxes and wanes depending on the volume of sacrifice required of them at any given time. This love is often a battle, a well-fought fight for the sake of the One who loved us first.
It’s this love that Jesus tells us will be our witness to who He is.
It is one of my recurring prayers on the field, that our friends and community in South Sudan will in fact see our love for one another and for them. I’m not always convinced the community can/does see our lives in this way, but my prayer and our teams’ prayer is that the Spirit, who applies things to hearts, would bear witness to God’s love through the love we fight daily to have for one another.
Pray with us, that our communities would see love in and from us, that they would see God in this love. The love He first gave us.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13: 34-35
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters…Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:16,18
“We love because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19