“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:11-13
Storing up months worth of toilet paper and other supplies, giving up sports and television and most entertainment for the foreseeable future, accepting isolation from friends and family as the new norm, homeschooling the kids because it is the only way to educate the children with such a lifestyle…all of this isn’t that strange to our family and believe it or not there are hundreds of other families just like us. Truthfully, for us, this present scenario presented to the world by the Coronavirus epidemic is all too familiar.
Why? Because we have lived the majority of the past 19 years in a similar way. For front-line missionaries doing church plants in isolated people groups around the world this is the way that we spend long periods of time, sometimes months and even years living day in and day out. In addition we take helicopters and small planes to remote areas that don’t have stores and malls or even schools and hospitals. There are no roads in or out and nearly all of the supplies needed to live must be bought in advance in bulk, and then flown in to the missionary outpost and stored for weeks and even months. If not, there is not enough food for the missionary family and their children and they will shortly afterwards run out. The goal for the missionary families serving interior remote tribal locations is to have enough supplies to not only be able to survive but to be able to thrive in these remote place and in their mission work.
For missionaries around the world however, the goal in choosing to live this way for long periods of time isn’t mere self preservation. It is for a much much greater endeavor that such a lifestyle is embraced. It’s for the glory of our awesome God and for the furtherance of the Gospel. As missionaries ourselves, it’s strange for us to watch the present coronavirus pandemic sweep through our homeland because now, all of the sudden, the whole of the world is forced by these strange circumstances to live very similarly to the way many missionaries around the world have already lived for a very long time.
From our perception it’s a “wartime lifestyle”. A lifestyle that plans ahead so as to make the most of the war against the present enemy. It’s a mindset that identifies with the apostle Paul when he said in Philippians 4:11-13 “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
We recently barely made it back into the good ole USA before flights started getting cancelled and blocked around the world. The Lord had blessed us with our sixth child on the way and so we were headed back to our homeland to give birth to the baby. We had just completed a time overseas checking some recently translated Old Testament Bible portions for accuracy. We have been working for over 15 years now to translate the entire Bible into the language of the remote Dao people group of Indonesia and Lord willing will continue to do so until the job is done. But within days of our return we received word from a close friend that the airports had been shut down that we had just passed through on our way back to the States.
My wife Jennie gave birth earlier than was expected and to a beautiful baby girl who we named Maranatha. Jennie is now on bedrest to recover from the birth and we are grateful for our first daughter (to add to our five sons). We feel fortunate to be in the USA right now. In fact, we just received word that the helicopter that flies us in and out of the jungle when we are in Indonesia isn’t even able to perform its usual operations and can only take limited emergency flights because of the coronavirus epidemic now sweeping through the island where the Dao people live.
Though we hope to return to Indonesia later this year, for now as we sit in this country and observe the reactions of our society to the coronavirus pandemic I can’t help but reflect on a simple question: “What if we as Christians in our home country lived with such a sense of urgency all the time?”
This virus has even been labeled by the President as the “invisible enemy” and it has been said that we are presently in a “war-time” fight against that enemy. People are stocking up for this war, tying up loose ends, forgoing spending hours upon hours watching and playing sports. Many of the things that were once prioritized in our lives are presently being set aside for the sake of the war at hand and people are trying to figure out how they can take care of their families and beat this enemy even if it means temporary separation from friends and relatives.
Oh, if we only saw our spiritual enemy the same way as this present coronavirus “enemy”. If we only treated the ongoing spiritual war that we have been charged by our Lord and true King to fight with the same sense of urgency! “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12
May the Lord use this time as a wake up call for both my family and for yours; a time of refocusing on the battle at hand to see the Gospel carried to every last nation and isolated people group on the face of this planet as commanded to us by our Captain and King Jesus. May we recapture that sense of urgency and wartime mindset of the forefathers of our faith and purpose to live with such a sense of urgency against our spiritual enemy permanently, even long after the wartime lifestyle brought on by coronavirus is finally over and gone. “Maranatha!” Come Lord Jesus! (1 Corinthians 16:22)