Joy & tears abound at church on mission

Baptist Press
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Posted: May 30, 2014 4:52 PM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- As Colin and Anna Freeman* spent their last few whirlwind weeks in the United States, the question they heard most often from family and friends was "Are you excited?"

It was just before Christmas 2013 and they were on the verge of leaving to serve as missionaries to the Horn of Africa.

"I didn't know how to answer that" the first few times he heard it, Colin admits.

There's nothing exciting about telling your father-in-law you are taking his daughter halfway around the world, Colin says, or telling your parents that your future children will not grow up in the presence of their U.S. families. Nor is there anything exciting about telling your friends they won't be a part of your everyday life for many years.

"I think that you have to put it into perspective -- what God has done for us has been beautiful and that every day we have been given more of a longing to be with the people ," Colin says.

"I think it is exciting, but it's also very sobering."

God equipped the couple for missionary service through Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Ky. Although the Freemans knew God was calling them to become missionaries and spend their lives ministering to others, that kind of obedience comes at a cost -- for both the Freemans and Sojourn.

The beauty, difficulty of community

Sojourn emphasizes living in community and being on mission right where you are. The Freemans planted roots in the church through first leading and then coaching community groups -- small groups that meet once a week in homes to discuss the Bible and "live life" together.

But living life together can be tough.

"If you really are obedient to what you're being called to, then you get really deep into people's lives and you see how messy they are and they see how messy you are," Anna says.

It's hard work to talk about your sin and be there for others who are struggling with sins, she says, and it is especially difficult to be constantly available to support and talk with people.

"It's exhausting to do, you know, after working 10 hours and doing laundry, and at 11 o'clock getting a phone call," Anna says. "But that's what we're called to do -- that's what the Word calls us to do."

Though the calls can be inconvenient, Anna says she's thankful after she answers them.

"There's so much freedom that the Gospel gives us in community, that we can be with one another and know each other's struggles, and still have the same love that Christ has given us that we can love others," she says. "… You get to see how He moves and changes people.”

Joy and tears

As a "sending church," Sojourn lives sacrificially to send its members to the nations, says Nathan Garth*, pastor of global missions.

"Everything great in life calls for sacrifice," notes Daniel Montgomery, Sojourn’s lead pastor. "Great mission in the local church calls for great sacrifice, and we resolve to sacrifice for the mission of God, really for the joy that's set before us.

"I mean, it's a sacrifice of time, it's a sacrifice of resources. We have chosen to be deliberate about sacrificing our best and brightest to the mission field."

Like the early church in the New Testament, Sojourn experiences the laughter and joy of sending out missionaries, Montgomery says, but also the tears and pain of seeing those they love being sent far away.

"It's difficult when you have to say goodbye to friends and family for the sake of the Gospel," Garth adds.

You'd think that as Sojourn releases elders and leaders to plant churches among the nations that the number of leaders would decrease, but in reality Sojourn has seen an increase.

"That's not math I understand, that's God's math," Garth says. "But as we're releasing people, we're seeing multiplication happen even with our own body."

For the Freemans, the sacrifice also has been worth it.

"I just have so much joy in getting to ," Anna says, "and I'm really looking forward to seeing that happen among a people who don't know who Jesus is."

Visit imb.org/sending to view videos of Sojourn members discussing such topics as "being in community," "living sent," "training" and "send but don't let go."

The Freemans advise individuals and churches interested in living missionally to:

-- Attend missions conferences: Check the "Events" quick link at imb.org for IMB gatherings closest to you.

-- Connect with international representatives: Go to "Who can help" at imb.org/lead to connect with an IMB representative associated with your state or ethnic group.

-- Go on missions trips: Visit going.imb.org for guidance to volunteer and partnership opportunities. Consider focusing on an unengaged, unreached people group through call2embrace.org.

-- Give to international missions through the Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon offering for international missions: www.sbc.net/cp and imb.org/offering. "That support goes to empower people like us who the Lord has called to go," Anna says. "… You are making a way, a tangible way, for us to move to the other side of the world, to live basic lives and to share the Word in that life, and right now going where people have never heard the name of Christ."

*Names changed. Laura Fielding is a writer for the International Mission Board.

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