Recently, I asked a very successful missionary friend the key to his success. Without hesitation he responded,
“Don, “You’ve got to let the ‘anything’ go in your life that weighs you down. It’s the 'anything’ that causes people to overthink, hold grudges, encourage conflict, erect mental barriers, withdraw from relationships, and waste time and energy. Anything, let it go.”
Starring directly into my eyes, he deliberately let an uncomfortable pause settle his words. Perplexed I sheepishly replied, “Let go of what?” Leaping at an obvious opportunity he shot back in enthusiasm,
“Ah, now that is not for me to answer! You must identify your ‘anything.’ That thing standing between you and that which moves you forward. The betrayal, lie, or offense, you know, the person, people, or organization you believed wronged you. The ANYTHING that cause conflict between missionaries, and pastors too. That‘anything’ – you must loose and let go. Otherwise, in the end, it destroys all the creative good stuff you intend to do.”
One personal observation of my highly motivated successful friend is that he hangs onto few negatives. I needed not probe my inner-self long for a few “anything” to surface:
Having served twenty-two years as a missionary in South Africa, nine years as a pastor in Northern Minnesota, and now a missionary again, I know this to be true, “Conflict between missionaries is rife.” Pastors don’t get along well with in each too.
ANTHING of Betrayal
Looking into one’s self, identifying a friend, colleague, or organization’s betrayal is not difficult to find. Betrayals exist for all of us. The question is, “What do you do with that betrayal?”
A missionary shared that during his first full year long furlough in the United States, another missionary hired his best pastors away from him. Promising a better wage and accommodations, the “other missionary” moved his national pastors gutting his work; ANYTHING.
Another missionary upon arrival for service in Africa was treated so poorly by older long established missionaries, he resigned within two years and returned to the States. The older missionaries replied, “We knew they wouldn’t make it.”
On his 20th anniversary during the Sunday morning worship service, an associate pastor stood up and demanded the resignation of a pastor friend of mine. Upon refusing to resign, the associate and 105 adults walked out of the church. Happy anniversary; ANYTHING.
A missionary couple returned to the Kentucky to pastor. Nothing worked out like they thought; nothing. He bitterly shared, “The church promised to call me as their next pastor only to not do so after we resigned and returned. What do we do now?”ANYTHING
A hurting missionary friend of mine wanted nothing more than to be part of a Senior Team at a huge Megachurch in the Midwest. To be sure, in my opinion, he far out talented any member of that team including the Senior Pastor. Perhaps his abilities and talents threatened the members of that staff. The Napoleonic senior pastor tended to hire only staff of far lesser ability than himself. Twenty years later he still yearns to be on a staff that doesn’t want him; ANYTHING.
The new pastor of the church you’ve been a member of for twenty years, your Home Church, shows little interest in your family, ministry, or self; ANYTHING.
I once shared with a pastor friend traumatic experiences I struggled with in South Africa. It marked, I think, the beginning of my PTSD. His reply, “Suck it up, I don’t have time for wimps.” ANYTHING
Being forced to “retire” in your fifties from the only thing you’ve ever done or loved because giving dried up in your denomination; ANYTHING.
By the way, the fat guys on top didn’t retire, they forced you to retire while they still draw full wages and benefits;ANYTHING.
Watching the 501c3 you started to help care for orphan children in Africa be skillfully stolen from you by the person you trusted most; ANYTHING.
Arriving from the Airport after five years of serving in a third world country, only to be surrounded by American church people to busy to even say, “Hi.” ANYTHING
ANYTHING of Collusion
A very close missionary friend built a very impressive medical complex in a 3rd world country. Passion for the people’s health and well-being oozed out of him. Devastating news arrived upon learning that an associate secured a contract against his life. Paying a full fee to assassins, he was forced to flee the country for his life. He ceded his life’s work into the hands of others. The very group he served colluded to rid his presence of the very thing he championed; ANYTHING.
A pastor friend of mine openingly wept. As tears literally streamed down his face, he cried, “Don, I don’t know why they don’t like me. They’ve had meetings in their homes talking about me. What did I do?” That pastor just didn’t show up to church one Sunday suffering a total breakdown. Believing he wasn’t good enough, he simply stopped going to church vowing never to go back; ANYTHING.
ANYTHING of Offense
This anything is the anything most anythings are made of. You know, that person who does or says a thing that just offends you. Those words, actions, attitudes, or things that make you angry. The exchange you take home with you. The words you rehearse repeatedly. The irk robbing you of sleep. The inconsideration so inconsiderable that to you, it seems almost unconscionable. Unkind words. Untrue statements. A condescending look. A belittling gesture. A passed over promotion. Abandoned friendships; ANYTHING.
Once while golfing in South Africa with a couple of missionary friends, I missed a three foot birdie putt. Birdies are very rare for me, and I guess the apprehension on perhaps not making the putt played with my mind. My friend sank his eight foot putt for birdie. Smiling, I said to him, “I wish I could golf like you.” He responded, “I wish I could build churches like you.” Double ANYTHING
Recently, a missionary friend shared disappointment with her Home Church. Suffering no less than five deaths in her family the past year, she felt the church failed to respond to any her needs, pain, and heartaches; ANYTHING.
ANYTHING always presents itself. It’s always there.
A missionary appearing far more successful than you; ANYTHING
A policy change in your missionary organization; ANYTHING
Being forgotten shortly after coming off the field; ANYTHING
Disrespected by younger missionaries; ANYTHING
Ignored by older missionaries; ANYTHING
That one person on the team you just can’t stand; ANYTHING
The missionary that stole “your people” – ANYTHING
The missionary group you don’t quite fit into no matter what you do; ANYTHING
The lack of notoriety of your ministry that so many others receive; ANYTHING
Your ANYTHING – Fill in the blank _________________________
When it comes to the “ANYTHING” in my life, I think Jesus offers the best solution. He said long ago:
“If you hold ANYTHING against anyone, forgive them . . .”
Jesus knew that ANYTHING holds great power over us. It hampers self, thinking, relationships, and happiness. ANYTHING conjures up all manner of thought, emotion, and reaction. In the entirety of the verse Jesus pointed out that ANYTHING affects one huge dynamic in our lives:
Forgiving People Experience Forgiveness
Jesus said, “If you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you . . .”
Forgive-less people experience little forgiveness. Letting ANYTHING go encourages others to let their ANYTHING go towards me.
Loosing ANYTHING allows God’s loosing of ANYTHING towards you.
Let it go. It’s really not worth holding onto. Loose it. Release it. It has only power to destroy. Loose your ANYTHING, before you lose you.
Just My Thoughts
Don was born in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. Having served twenty-two years in South Africa as missionaries with his wife Kathy, and eight years pastoring in the United States, he shares unique perspectives about life, family, relationships, and ministry.