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7 Lessons I Learned From My 7+ Years in Honduras

After serving more than seven years as a full-time missionary in Honduras, God called my wife and me to leave the place we called home and cross the Atlantic to serve as missionaries in Central Africa.* Each year in Honduras the difficult missions life got easier as we learned the language and culture. We hope to take some of our experiences in Honduras and apply those as lessons learned in our new home in Equatorial Guinea. I trust you’ll find value in them as well.

1. Patience is valuable
My Western culture, type-A personality and professional secular background have always demanded quick and measurable results. Living in a third-world country in a Latin culture is not conducive to my background. Above and beyond the cultural differences, I learned that my idea of good timing is not always the same as God’s idea of good timing. Too many times I raced ahead in one direction to realize I hadn’t stopped to see if I was going in God’s direction or at his pace. Waiting on God has paid dividends in our ministry in Honduras.

2. Relationships matter
Whether it be fellow missionaries, nationals, or supporters, it is important to cultivate and maintain quality Christ-centered relationships. With a deep relationship you get to experience more of God’s grace and mercy from each other. On the mission field things will go wrong. When they do you see the importance of substantive relationships. Taking the time and effort to develop and nurture a relationship is when you get to experience the true joy found in Christian fellowship.

3. God is in control
It is so contrary to the secular way of thinking to release control of your life. But as Christians we know it is folly to ever imagine our sovereign Father wasn’t in control. Too many times we look at events as failures, because we see them through our limited, me-centered eyes. Periodically, God gives us the blessing of 20/20 hindsight to help us see that what we thought was a catastrophe was actually God rearranging things to how they should be. Too many times I looked at events or interactions as failures only to be reminded that God is in control and that in reality, everything was exactly as He wanted.

4. Prayer is central
So much time was wasted toiling, stressing, and wringing our hands. It took me a while to learn that prayer is so much more effective a tool than man-centered solutions. In prayer we acknowledge two very important things: One, I can’t, and two, God can. This takes the focus off of us and brings glory to God. Every ministry event or meeting needs to be bathed in prayer.

5. Humans are sinners
There is one certainty in missions, and that is 100 percent of the people you deal with are sinners. If you understand this, it doesn’t come as quite a shock when they sin against you. But, even with our sinner status confirmed, we must remember God has called us to all have relationships with each other. God knew that when He put sinners together they would, well, sin. That is why He clearly outlined reconciliation in Scripture and the fact that we are to forgive each other. Just because I and those around me are sinners, doesn’t mean we get to walk away from each other. God is glorified when we use His grace and mercy to show love and joy to some of His most prickly sinners.

6. Communication is integral
Missionaries must communicate with the churches and individuals who sent them and supporters must communicate with their missionaries. This is a team effort. The goers and senders must work together to glorify God on the mission field. Too few missionaries view communication with senders as an integral part of their ministry. Also, too many churches forget about or ignore the missionaries they’ve sent. God is glorified when we are all talking about how central he is in our ministry.

7. I’m not that important
It is wonderful to be reminded that I am not as important as I think I am. We as individuals are not that vital to God’s cosmic plans. I will never understand why God doesn’t use the rocks and the trees to accomplish His will. However, He has chosen to use us. He doesn’t need us, but many of us sinful missionaries keep acting like we play a vital role in the achievement of God’s glory. It is a privilege to be used by God and a thrill to watch His glory achieved, but we must never forget who the sovereign one is in our relationship.

These are all simple Christ-centered lessons I have heard, read, and taught a hundred times. Apparently the disconnect comes between knowing biblical truths and living biblical truths. My greatest prayer is that we can take the lessons learned in our seven and a half years of living and ministering in Honduras and apply them to the new ministry to which God has called us.

*This was originally written in 2016. Following his time in Honduras, Mike Pettengill served with MTW in Equatorial Guinea and is now the director of MTW’s West Coast office.

Mike Pettengill Mar 1, 2018
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