One popular agent actually coined the phrase the "Am I Crazies" which for an author goes into all those things we constantly question - should I be writing, should I be giving all this time to writing...what's the point?!"
Well, as I've been going through my own dose of the Am I Crazies this week with my own novel, I came to realise today that for our life in Russia, the phrase also applies to what we are doing here...so it's on two counts that I'm asking am I actually crazy?!
Now, before I really explore this topic, I must point out that it is quite different in one regard...in mission, it's all about following God and therefore nothing is worthless or without reward. But just as God is in my writing and yet I still have those thoughts, I thought it would be useful to write down what the thoughts are in relation to mission situations when you just get to the point and ask: Am I Crazy?
Picture the situation, if you will. You are not salaried for any particular job, there is no actual job description. You are thrown into a world who's language you don't understand, in a culture so different from your own. Your 'career' path is scrapped, so are your close friendships (yes, email and Skype help keep these ticking over, but it's a different relationship from now on). You work in such a way that sees what you do increase but with no guarantees in regard your own involvement in 6 months time. Truly, are you crazy after all??!
Don't get me wrong, I'm not having a major moan about things, just some general thoughts. It might help others going through similar things, for example, which is largely why I write anything at all. I want others to feel encouraged in their settings, knowing that the things they are feeling are not unusual, that they are no different from the rest of us, and therefore helping them to come through those times. Because believe me, they come to us all.
The reality of not being salaried to do what we do is that you actually do so much more than you would otherwise do. You do everything, because there's no guidelines as to where you stop. If, for example, the money my family got in through support was actually my salary to work for Hope church here in St Petersburg, then it would radically transform my week. As is it I work nearly full time for the church, but do several other part time 'jobs' as well, plus studies in Russian, household jobs, being a father and being a good husband. But if I worked full time for the church as a salaried member of staff (very Western thinking, the reality is at the moment in Russia that as a foreigner I can not earn a salary from a church), then within the working week would be sections of time that are taken off, so as to give you a couple of days off a week.
Now, the reality is that most of the core team is working 6 or more days a week. Usually 7.
And God is doing so much, that as our team has grown, we've seen our responsibilities grow with it and so we've developed systems, moving in our strengths, going along a path that in six months, when our funding runs out, we might not be able to be involved in. Crazy!
Again, hear me right. Living by faith throws you onto God and I'm not therefore suggesting I'd rather be salaried (as I've said, this wouldn't be very possible here in Russia anyway). It would be good to know a little more on the longer term financial support we are getting though, but it's such a hard one to approach. What is the way through?
I guess on one level it always remains that we are here, now, in the timing of God and at any moment He could move us on, move us back, retire us from the game. We have to live with that, it's His call after all and what we do in the here and now is a major honour, and nothing to be taken in any way as our due. It's a great privilege and nothing of our own doing as if we could have a claim on anything.
It's God who brings the finance in after all, and if anyone should have learnt this lesson, it's us, because He did so much in this regard before our coming here, we know that if those near us can't help, even strangers can give massively!
So maybe it's futile to think about the ongoing support but just to thank God that today there is the cash available to live.
What is a struggle though at first, and something that is always there while living through this kind of situation, is the guilt and pressure around use of time etc, which is probably what drives you to work much more than you would, or maybe should! (We all have busy seasons, times when we just have to press through and get through them, but what I'm talking about here is when the constant is 7 days a week without a weekend, without the prospect, or money, for holiday's etc that otherwise would break the routine every so often).
Another question I keep hearing asked in this situation (usually from myself!) is "What is my role?" I guess this is due to the lack of job description, but is probably worked out in the first three years I would imagine (says the guy who's only 15 months through the process with no signs of the end coming up)! In that time, you've learnt enough of the busy, mismatched routine that is non-routined mission life, to start to see what you can do and how it is working out.
So let me speak out the truths once and for all (for me as much as anyone);
You are NOT crazy to invest all your time into something that you may not be able to be apart of in 6 months time, because you are doing it for God and the investment is eternal.
You are NOT crazy to live in a life of no routine, because you've been obedient to God in the first place by moving to where He's asked you to, and God loves obedience.
You are NOT crazy to have wrecked your career by moving abroad, because career is not a biblical word, and besides, God is bigger than any job or any situation that would stop you getting an even better 'career' further down the path, if that is His will.
You are NOT crazy to be in a situation that you feel so alienated in, because you've been obedient - and did I say that God LOVES OBEDIENCE!
It's just a simple truth - you are not CRAZY! Maybe THIS is normal life after all...normal Christian life...and maybe it's crazy to not be doing what your doing. It's certainly crazy to not do something God has told you to do.
Now there's food for thought.
To all my mission brothers and sisters around the world (remember - mission is notgeographical: its a mindset!) - be blessed today!