Do I Sacrifice?

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This blog was written when I still lived in Uganda. Currently I am moving to a new position in Kenya. 

Mark 10:28-31

Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Oftentimes when talking to our supporters from churches back in the USA, people tell me that they appreciate the sacrifice we have made to live and work in Uganda. They imagine our lifestyle and the things we might have to go without. Many of them are probably thinking of these words of Jesus. Whenever people tell me this, it always surprises me a little bit. The reason is that I really don’t feel like I sacrifice that much in my life. Upon further reflection, I have decided that living a sacrificial life is going to look different for different people. One person’s sacrifice is another person’s joy, and vice versa. God has made us all different, and we enjoy different things. God is wise. With this setup, we can appreciate our own situations while admiring what others are doing for God’s Kingdom.

I admit I do feel like I am sacrificing a little bit when I think about my poor internet connection, frequent power outages, and most of all being away from my family and my nieces and nephews. However, looking at the rest of my life, I honestly have everything I need and want. I have a huge house to live in, with a nice yard, honest Christian people working for us, fun animals, as much food to eat as I ever could want, clean water to drink, a toilet I can sit on and toilet paper, a computer which I can use for internet, movies, and games, a comfortable bed with a mosquito net with no holes in it, medical care, insurance, a savings account, a vehicle, and plenty of free time for resting. In addition, I have fulfilling meaningful work to do that I enjoy very much. I have wonderful family and friends back home who love me. I have amazingly generous supporters and churches back in the US and Canada who allow us to live here and encourage us regularly. I have so many passionate caring Ugandan friends I get to work with. I have a committed beautiful talented serving wife who is a great partner in ministry. And I have a God who loves me, despite my sins, and the hope of eternal life on God’s perfect New Creation which is to come.

So as you can see, I enjoy life, and really feel like I have it easy compared to everyone else. There are other missionaries who sacrifice a hundred times more than me (check out the doctor in this video about the continuing genocide in Sudan). When I might be tempted to complain about the fundraising work we have to do, I am reminded to be thankful that I never ever have to worry about not having enough money to meet my needs, while many of my friends here live week to week, not knowing if they will have enough money to keep sending their children to school. When I look at my Ugandan coworkers, I can see them sacrificing much more than me. Pastors serve expecting practically nothing in return. They are volunteers. And when I feel like I’m sacrificing because of frequent power outages, it’s humbling to remember that most people in Uganda, and many of my friends, do not have power at all. When I feel like complaining about slow internet, I remember that most people here do not have internet. When I complain about no running water, I remember that most people here bathe every day with only a basin of borehole water, don’t have clean water to drink, and use a pit latrine instead of a toilet. Yet these same people also love to tell me, “You have sacrificed so much to join us here in Uganda!”  And I tell them, “No, it is you who is sacrificing!”

But it’s not only Ugandans. I look at the situations of people back home, and I feel like people back home are sacrificing. For example, I look at my parents and Sara's parents who have had to let their children go halfway around the world. I look at people back in the US who have worked at jobs they don't enjoy for decades, but they've worked hard and honestly with a good attitude. And then they use their hard earned money to support people like me. Not everyone gets their dream job, as I have been given.

When I look at any of your lives back home, I think my life is easy. You can think about simple funny things like the fact that I don’t ever have to shovel snow or scrape off my vehicle or how I can buy about 10 avocados for a dollar. Or you can look at the hard realities that many of you face: difficult or busy jobs, work that might not be fulfilling, high living prices, recurring health problems, strained family relationships, or struggles with children drifting away from God or into sin. Lately I’ve even been struck by how much easier it is to live in Uganda where I don’t have to face the frighteningly fast-paced changing of technology and all the need for learning and ethical questions that it is bringing to you back home.

Anyway I think you can get the point. To some of you, it looks like I am sacrificing to live this life. But to me, I think you (the ones back home) are sacrificing, and your sacrifice is my gain as you faithfully support our work here  I wanted to write this post to make this clear to all of you. Because whenever someone tells me I’ve really sacrificed, I almost feel guilty or like a fraud. Because my life is easy!  My life fits well with the words of Jesus I posted above. I have left home and family, but God has provided me with more homes and family and friends, so I am doubly, triply, and even hundred times more blessed. 

God has allowed me to do exactly what I want to do, and all my needs are met. Whatever family events or excitements or entertainment I miss out on in this life (and there will of course be some things and it will be hard), God will more than make up for those things in the New Creation, our eternal life. I look forward to that day with joy and expectation. In the meantime, I hope this meditation will encourage you, and myself, to follow other people’s examples, that we will all learn to sacrifice more than we have been doing for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

Questions for Reflection or Discussion:

  1. Who do you know who has sacrificed for Christ and inspired you?  Or what books about this have inspired you?  Feel free to share the book titles below.
  2. In what ways have you sacrificed in your walk with Christ?  What suffering have you gone through?  How has God helped you through it or rewarded you for it?
  3. What could you do to sacrifice more for God’s Kingdom in your life?
  4. What physical comforts or entertainment could you give up in order to save more money to give away to the poor and to support the spread of the Gospel?
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Thanks for this. It reflects a lot of the same things we have thought and felt during our tenure in Japan 35 years and still ongoing). But yesterday we said goodbye to two very precious grandsons, and we're sad about that. And in a couple of weeks we will be saying goodbye to an aging parent, whose needs remain on our mind all the time. Still, the "benefits," if that's the right way to say it, are so much greater than the "sacrifices." 35 years ago, an international phone call from Japan to the US cost $9.00 per minute! Today we can Skype for free. Travel schedules are much more flexible than in the 1980s and 1990s, so we do get back more often. Sure, we have our frustrations and "if only" moments, but the Lord is faithful and gives us encouragement in so many ways. We're just finishing up home service, having spent almost 6 months meeting scads of people who care deeply for us personally and for the work of missions. We are indeed blessed! 

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