The story below is from a publication of Mission to the World, the mission sending arm of the Presbyterian Church in America. It is written by Lyn Newbrander who writes it concerning a time when she and her husband were living and working in the Netherlands. I share it here partly for its honesty, and partly for its encouragement.
But I share it as well because of what I call the ‘Gospel Blimp Syndrome’– the idea that real outreach and real missions and real evangelism occurs only when we are in somebody’s face preaching at them. More likely than not, it is not proclamation which softens hearts to the gospel, but incarnation. This story warmly illustrates that.
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“Why Am I Here?”
I was having a rainy KLM day. You know those days: get on the first KLM flight back to America and ditch the whole thing. I lifted three-year-old David off my bike and unloaded groceries from the saddle bags. Wet and loaded down, we faced the long trek up our 48 stairs, with David practicing, “St-ep, st-ep, st-ep.”
Life with three small children in Amsterdam was full of mommying, juggling groceries on bikes, and transporting kids to Dutch kindergarten. Why was I here, anyway? Between diapers, I’d somehow learned the language well, even speaking Dutch when people spoke English to me. But there weren’t a lot of people lining up at my door, wondering (in Dutch) why my life was so incredibly joy-filled.
As I set David down at the table for his lunch of peanut butter on whole wheat, the bell rang. It was Margaretha from across the hall. Soon after we had moved in, we met unexpectedly. When she came home from the hospital after a high-risk pregnancy, I ran down the stairs and immediately jumped in: “I’m-your-neighbor-shall-I-take- the-baby-up-for-you?” Barely waiting for an answer, I flitted up the 4 flights, set the baby in his seat by their door, and dashed back down, late to get David from school. Margaretha later told me that she felt as though an angel suddenly appeared, swooped up the baby, and dashed down, adding, “Baby’s at the door! Welcome home! Bye!”
Over time, a friendship developed. Margaretha helped me with my Dutch, comforted me during my 19 weeks of bed rest (she knew!), and we left a “baby phone” with each other when running a quick errand while children napped.
Today, I opened the door to Margaretha, still feeling discouraged. “What’s the matter, Lyn?” she asked. By this time, Margaretha knew I was a missionary, and since she had grown up in the church, she might understand.
“I’m just discouraged. You know, Margaretha, I don’t know what I’m doing here. I could be back home, doing all of the same things with much more ease, in my own language, close to my family. I just wish I could pack up and go home. There really isn’t any point to my being here.”
Margaretha told me something I will never forget: “You know, Lyn. It took an American coming to Holland to make me feel at home in my own country. I don’t know about all those other things you wish you could do, but I thank God that He sent you here just for me.”
Tears filled my eyes. Was one Dutch friend across the hall worth all the time and effort in support raising and in learning the language? I laughed, knowing the answer. Obviously, God thought that Margaretha was worth my sacrifices—and His.