How Long?

How Long?

Author - Andrew Burt, Echoes International Mission Worker

Author Bio:

Andrew and his wife Lorna joined a GLO church planting team in Enniscorthy in the Republic of Ireland in 1999. He now leads this local church and is mainly involved in leadership, Bible teaching, pastoral care and children’s and youth ministry. He has two teenage daughters.

John Cooper is possibly the world’s longest serving paperboy.  He started delivering newspapers in his Derbyshire village in 1947 at the age of 11.  Now, 71 years later, he still delivers newspapers six days a week.  Amazingly, even at age 82 he still starts his work at 5.00 in the morning and jogs some of the way.

I think that kind of commitment and perseverance is really challenging these days.  We live in a world where it seems that fewer people are willing to work for the long-term, where more and more people want the freedom to switch their career, their location or their relationships.  And that attitude can so easily impact us as God’s people.

In January, Lorna and I will have been working in Enniscorthy for 20 years.  I know that it is nothing compared to someone like John on his paper round, or to many other believers in their ministry.  However, I never thought we’d be here this long when we made a one-year commitment to be part of a GLO church planting team.

And so, in the words of David, I’ve found myself asking, “How long, Lord?” (Ps. 13:1)

How long do you want us to be involved in mission?

How long should we be willing to keep on going preaching the gospel?

How long is it supposed to take to see people impacted by the gospel, to see people’s lives transformed or to see a church established?

I don’t really have an answer.  I believe in the value of short-term mission work.  For the past 20 years we have hosted a GLO summer team and seen the impact of these two weeks in the lives of people on our team and in our town.

However, I’m also learning that God often works on a much longer time-scale.

When we first moved to Enniscorthy we did a lot of door-to-door ministry.  Through this we got to know one couple in particular. They were very friendly and listened to the gospel, but they haven’t responded to the invitation yet. However, a few years ago, their youngest son came along to our youth group.  After a while he put his faith in the Lord, and this Sunday coming he is getting baptised.

Another young man we met on the doorstep was much more receptive to the gospel.  After two years of talking with him he eventually trusted in Christ.  For the past 15 years or so, he has been on the fringe of our church.  I met with him regularly to disciple him, but he was always struggling with issues that kept him from fellowshipping and serving with his Christian family.

I am praying that God will give us all that same kind of commitment and perseverance to keep on going, year after year in fulfilling God’s call to mission

However 18 months or so ago, God started to work in his life in a remarkable way.  He still has his struggles, but he is now at the heart of our church, sharing in our services and Bible studies, and ministering in our youth and kids’ work.

Like many youth workers, we’ve gone through the heartbreak of watching many teenagers in our youth group choose to walk away from God.  However, some, after suffering the consequences of their choices, have come back years later to be restored to the Lord and are going on with him.

And we’ve observed how it is sometimes only after knowing us for years, will people trust us enough to open up about the burdens they are carrying and allow us to walk with them through the process of healing and recovery.

I’m so thankful to God that he enabled us to stay here long enough to see this long-term fruit.  And this encourages me to be willing to keep on going, for as long as God decides in the work that he has given us to do.

I don’t think many of us will get anywhere close to John Cooper’s 71 years of service.  However, I am praying that God will give us all that same kind of commitment and perseverance to keep on going, year after year in fulfilling God’s call to mission, wherever that is.  As the apostle Paul wrote: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9)

Welcome to the joint blog of Echoes International and GLO. Sharing the thoughts and experiences from experts in mission across the world, we aim to examine the issues facing mission today, and challenge existing views about cross-cultural mission.

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