I am SO chuffed to introduce the author of this post. Not only is she a great writer, she’s also a woman of incredible character and integrity. So here it is – the first guest post in the “What it’s like to …” series, written by Anna Burgess.
What it’s like to confront fear
I wasn’t fearful when I first arrived in Peru – I was excited, full of vision and expectant about what God was going to do through us. We arrived with a baby and too much luggage and a mixture of faith and presumption!
We worked with a Peruvian church for a while- our desire to work alongside what God was already doing in Peru –and they were initially excited about having us on board. However, one year in, and with a shanty town ministry beginning to thrive, they began to feel insecure with us being there and God moved us on painfully overnight.
Gracefully, He had miraculously led us to the next step, and with our hearts sore and hurting, we knew God was now releasing us to do the work he had called us to do here long term.
Our team was isolatingly small: my husband, Mark, I and a friend. We longed for a community of believers around us and peers to encourage us on the ground. God sent many short-term refreshments to us during those months, but it really did feel like we were ploughing rough ground. I soon became pregnant with our third child, and the exhaustion and overwhelming routine of having two young boys already whilst trying to disciple dozens of new Christians and constantly host teams and people in our house stretched us and our marriage in new ways. We were never drowning, but we certainly developed strong leg muscles constantly treading water!
5 months into the pregnancy, a scan revealed that our little boy had died and the grief of being outside a physical community of believers added extra sadness into our grief. But although it was obviously heart-breaking, God revealed himself to me in ways that have totally transformed my life, and opened my eyes to see the reality of heaven and eternity.
Fast forward another year and God had begun to form a committed community of believers around us – in the space of 8 months our leadership team went from 3 to 12 and we began to sip the relieving refreshment of working in a team. I was pregnant again, and threatening to give birth any day (none of my previous pregnancies had gone beyond 37 weeks), and at 38 weeks pregnant, Mark received news that his mother was very sick, and (with my blessing!) he returned to the UK to be with his mother as she passed away. The morning he was returning, I awoke to armed thieves robbing the electrics out of our car. I told them to (‘please!’) leave and thankfully they did (with over US$2000 of electrics!). A week later, our son Kaleb was born.
Now I don’t tell you these stories so that you will feel sorry for me or impressed with our sacrifices or our attitudes, or to scare you into avoiding Latin America at all costs! You might think I should be close to breakdown because of the many different things that have happened to us over the past few years. But by His grace I can say the opposite – my faith in God’s provision and direction has actually multiplied. For in all the hardships, He has proved Himself more than faithful. My walk with Him and my dependence on Him is now deeper than ever because I am beginning to really understand that He is truly guarding my life.
But I would also be lying if I told you there was no negative affect on my soul after being released from a church family we were dearly committed to, losing a child and having to confront armed robbers in the driveway! Those events shook me to the core. They made me question my trust in God. Worst of all, they made me wonder what next disaster would be around the corner if we kept advancing in the kingdom of God.
But being shaken to the core is not bad- just highly uncomfortable. Redigging areas of foundations on an old house is no easy task. Western Christianity had told me that if I prayed enough, chanted psalm 91 enough and drew close to God enough, He would prosper all my ways and no arrow would come near me. Knowing that those events were attacks on us, what was I meant to think? Where had we failed – where did we fail to send out enough prayer letters and mobilise the prayer warriors?!
But as I read Jesus’ words I am learning a new truth: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world…” (John 16:33) And Jesus said he has told us this so that we may have peace. I am learning that to share in Christ’s sufferings is part of being children of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) – and that we are overcomers! This world is only temporary and my real home is in heaven. I am also realizing that “I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me.” (Philippians 4:13) – so that if God puts me in a situation, he already knows that through Him I am able to overcome. And not just overcome but to bring victory into it!
Anna Burgess is 27 and lives with her husband Mark, her three boys and a community of Peruvian and Western missionaries in Lima, Peru. She and her husband are leading Oikos Church and network, in Peru, and are committed to discipleship and seeing people come to love God and share that love with others. Anna blogs at www.sittingunderanopenheaven.blogspot.com