Many missionaries spend a year or maybe a few years on the mission field. Then they return home. They may have occasion to visit the work they engaged in, but at that point it is like trying to return to an old dream. So many parts have moved that nothing seems to make much sense.
On the other hand, a long-term missionary (who is stable in a single location) is blessed with the ability to see lives changing and follow those changes over a lifetime.
I have been responsible for the children’s department at our church for many years. I have both pictures and memories of children from 20 years ago who are now adults working in the community. Emilson is one of those.
Emilson would visit our children’s programs in church. He was not an official «child of our church.» He would visit regularly though. Nor was he a student at the school I administrated. But Emilson was often present for our special activities. I have photos of him speaking into the microphone as a young boy. He was part of an annual Christmas program.
Emilson is very smart. He finished school easily and has studied education and has completed some intense French studies. He is now teaching in a local school.
Emilson played soccer, but never on a team. He was one of those players who was valuable for comic relief. People loved when he played. He was all laughter and smiles, but would shock people with great plays from time to time as well. He lived in the community as a joyful kid. One of his nicknames was “Reggea”, and another was “Candy.”
Last night Emilson preached the message on night #1 of a twenty-one night series of services. When he preaches, the room is silent. People love him, and respect him. They trust him. He is not a powerful leader. He is not an ambitious man. He is still pretty much a quiet kid. But the community knows his story. They listen to him. They appreciate him. Emilson preaches meekly, but powerfully at the same time. I can’t help but wonder if it is similar to how Jesus taught. His sentences are carefully constructed and so often land right on target.
The church service went overtime last night as God moved in the room. God was using Emilson’s message. As he held the mic and preached the Good News, I couldn’t help but remember that photo of a boy reciting some little passage as part of a Christmas program so many years ago.
That is the joy of being in ministry a long time. I am getting older. I am blessed to be able to look back and see the hand of God in the lives of people I know well. I wouldn’t trade my place for anything.
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Missionary in Haiti.