I am looking at a picture of our team from 2001 who pioneered the still thriving campus ministry in Toulouse. There were three couples, the Skurs, the Schlies, and the Workmans. These are dear friends, and all of us spent years in France investing in what God is going here. The Skurs left for Colorado a few years ago. We miss them. The Schlies are leaving France this summer. We will be the only ones left from this picture. The Faulks, the Kellums, the Onkens, the Heslons, have left or are leaving. I’m deeply sad to see people go, and it leaves me torn. Did something go wrong? How do you arrive at the point where you say, “My work is done here”?
I believe success in God’s kingdom is simply obeying Him and relying on His power. Going back to the States is not failure. They all continue to serve the Lord wherever they are. A missionary must think in terms of mission, pursuing what God has called them to do. This of course must be balanced with life’s circumstances which are constantly changing. And God’s call is not a firmly set thing either, but it evolves and flexes as you grow and pursue it. I have felt a progressive call: first to share the gospel, then specifically toward France, then using online resources, and now focusing on artistically helping reveal the beauty of the gospel. It seems that a call, however, is a delicate thing. It needs to be tended to and nurtured.
We are living life and keeping our eyes on God’s call, growing and changing as people, and continuously asking, “God, what do you want me to do?” But that is a complicated question. For the people in the paragraph above, the answer was return. Loved ones ask when or even if we will return, but it’s so complex. How long will we remain connected with the mission in France? How long will we feel this call? How long will our life situation, and that of our family, allow us to pursue it? We can’t give any definite answers. But I can say that we still feel a strong call and that the work May and I are doing is significant and worthwhile and strongly related to where we are – France.
This summer, for a number of reasons, we won’t make it back to the States. Since 2005 we’ve visited every two years, but we have to break that rhythm this time. That’s a bummer. I miss my family and do want to see them. But concerning God’s call we must strain forward, press on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus… For now, that call is still in France. It doesn’t take away the pain of distance, but it gives a missionary purpose.