Today’s blog post comes from a missionary working in Asia. For her safety, we have kept her name and location private.
“Bloom where you’re planted.” As a worker in Asia for over 25 years, I have always had a love/hate relationship with this phrase!
I’m not super outgoing, so it’s difficult for me to reach out to others. Plus, building relationships takes a lot of time and energy. With our transient lifestyle, it’s easier for me to not bother.
But I’m a missionary. Isn’t this the exact thing God has called me to do?
God wants each of us, missionary or not, to bloom where He plants us in order to be blessed and bless others; to expose our personal sin and shortcomings, and to fulfill God’s principle of reaping and sowing.
Blessed to Be a Blessing
We began our ministry in a small town in East Asia. Although we had few local teammates, we had many visitors, co-workers, family members and locals constantly streaming in and out of our lives. We would jokingly say at the end of each visit, “They come and they go!”
However, after numerous visits like this — from three days to sometimes three months of a short-term worker — I found myself withdrawing from visitors. I was pleasant and hospitable, but I didn’t invest in their lives and didn’t allow them to invest in mine. It was too painful!
One day, after telling my 7-year-old son about an upcoming visit from a co-worker, he asked, “How long will they stay?” When I said, “Only three days,” he kind of shook his head and mumbled, “Not worth!” and ran off to play.
My son was doing the exact same thing as me!
After hearing my story and complaints about our come-and-go visitors, a dear mentor exclaimed, “How blessed you are to have these visitors in your life — whether for three days or three years! God has blessed you with these relationships, and you are so much richer for knowing these people at all!”
She was so right! From that day forward, as a family, we began investing in our visitors’ lives. Consequently, we now have chosen family all over the world! My boys have been blessed with the best grandpas and grandmas, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends chosen for them by God. As we have invested, we have been blessed.
Exposing Our Sin and Shortcomings
In Hebrews 3:13, Paul writes, “But encourage one another daily … so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
God uses other people to show us things in our lives that we cannot see ourselves. We can only do this through relationships — blooming where we are planted.
When we lived in small-town East Asia in the early 2000s, most of the locals had never seen a Caucasian family, especially one with three towhead boys. We were quite the novelty! Often, when I would go out with my boys, we would be surrounded by people staring at us, touching my boys’ hair and laughing at everything we did!
My favorite time of the day was coming home to our apartment, closing the curtains and shutting out the very people God had called us to reach with the Gospel!
But God exposed my sin in a very unique way.
We lived on the second floor of a seven-floor apartment building. Unbeknownst to us, our building shared a communal septic tank that needed to be emptied on a regular basis. While taking our first vacation in six years, the septic tank overflowed into our apartment, covering every inch of our floor space in sewage!
Upon our return, surveying the devastation of our apartment, I just wanted to go home! I hated living here!
Several days later, after cleaning and bleaching our entire apartment, I told my sister about the catastrophe. She responded, “You know, you don’t love the people! Maybe God has allowed them to literally permeate every part of your apartment so you will love them as He does.”
Although the truth hurt, God’s severe mercy exposed this sin in my life, convicting me to love the people He had called me to serve. And to bloom where He had planted me!
You Reap What You Sow
The Bible has many verses on the principle of reaping and sowing. 2 Corinthians 9:6 states, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
After our 2003 sewage flood, God changed my heart, and I began to embrace the call He had given me. Slowly, I started sowing seeds.
I didn’t rush home in the late afternoon to seclude my family as often. I allowed people to hold and touch my children, and I asked about their children and home lives. I began investing in the lives of local women by inviting them to our home for tea and playdates for our kids.
Gradually God developed a love in my heart for the Asian people — not just for the ones we knew personally, but a deep love for the people group.
In 2008, with others on our team (we had teammates by then!), we started an English corner for adult learners in our church. Out of this developed an English-speaking, seeker Bible study for women. God helped me develop deep relationships with the women who came.
One woman came to our English corner and almost immediately accepted Christ on hearing the Good News. As we met for discipleship I was surprised to learn she lived in the building next to ours in our complex.
I was even more surprised when she told me this: “In 2003, I was 14 when you had sewage cover your apartment. Most of us in the complex knew this might happen but did not want to be bothered with cleaning out the septic tank before Chinese New Year. When the flood occurred in your apartment, we felt terrible! We thought you all would leave and never come back to our city. When you stayed, it puzzled me and I couldn’t understand why you would stay. Now I know — so I could hear the Good News and find Christ! Thank you for loving me enough to stay!”
God tells us in His Word, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9, NIV).
Bloom where you are planted. The harvest in your life and in the lives of others will be bountiful. And overwhelming.
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