Over the past few months, my morning routine has consisted of the same few activities: exercising, reading Scripture, and browsing through news sites of my country of service. Every day I hope to catch something––anything––about borders reopening or visas being issued. So far, my browsing hasn’t produced any results.
In March of this year, my wife and I, along with more than 70 other missionaries, were packing our bags and saying our goodbyes as we completed the International Mission Board’s Field Personnel Orientation (FPO). Most of us from that FPO group still have our bags packed. As COVID-19 began to spread throughout the world, countries made the wise, albeit difficult, decisions to close their borders, barring many of us from entering the countries we’ve thought, dreamed, and prayed about for months (and sometimes years).
Although some friends have made it to their countries of service in recent weeks, most in my new missionary group are still waiting for borders to reopen. And we’re not alone. Across the world, hundreds of missionaries have been displaced, evacuated or barred from readmittance. Every day we’ve been checking with our embassies to hear when we can be welcomed. That welcome seems nowhere in sight on most days.
COVID-19 has created more missionaries-in-waiting than any other event in recent history. As anyone who has gone through a waiting season knows, it presents its own challenges and struggles. With the difficulties in mind, here are eight ways you can pray for us– your missionaries-in-waiting.
Pray for countries to wisely reopen borders. The gospel remains an urgent message. Inside closed borders, people continue to die every day without knowledge of their Creator. Travel restrictions are preventing us from carrying the good news to those who desperately need it. Please join us in praying for admittance into these currently closed nations.
Pray that we can confidently rest in the sovereignty of God. At the same time, we missionaries-in-waiting need to be reminded that the only reason we’re here is because God wants us here. The gospel is still bearing fruit around the world (Colossians 1:5-6) and our absence, if anything, is a reminder that God is the One who saves people, not us. Pray that we can confidently echo the words of Job: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
Pray that we can be good stewards of this season. One of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve ever heard is that God’s calling for our lives is in the present tense, not the future. God has called us to be a light wherever we are right now, and He expects us to invest ourselves in the people right in front of us. Pray that we can steward our resources and current situations in a way that prompts the response, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Pray against discouragement. We’ve sold our houses and are living out of suitcases. We have no idea how long our current situation will last. We had expectations of how this year would go, and now we have no idea what next week will look like. Satan is quick to attack us with discouragement. Pray Philippians 4:4-13 over us, specifically that we will find contentment through Christ in these circumstances.
Pray that we will find community in our temporary homes. While many of us have returned to our home churches during this waiting season, not everyone has that opportunity. Some missionaries are waiting in another country—neither their home country nor their place of service—while borders remain shut. Pray that we can find local churches to partner with and support, as well as a community to walk alongside us as we wait.
Pray that God would give our IMB leaders wisdom. This pandemic has been a logistical nightmare for leaders around the world to navigate. As borders slowly reopen, new questions and challenges will emerge. Continue to ask God to grant wisdom to our IMB leaders as they daily make difficult decisions.
Pray that our love for Christ would deepen during this season. While we’ll certainly never know all the reasons for the waiting, we do know of at least one reason: so that we can look more like Christ. As James 1:2-4 reminds us, this season has been given to us specifically to teach us endurance and to shape us into Christ’s image. Pray that we can lean into Christ as we endure an unusual trial.
Pray for gratitude. Over the past few weeks I have been struck by the book of Philippians. Paul, writing from a prison cell, could have easily penned a letter to voice his frustration about how his work has been hindered. He chose not to do that. Instead, he chose to send a message overflowing with joy in Christ, encouraging his recipients to “rejoice in the Lord, always.” My prayer is that I, along with my fellow missionaries-in-waiting, would emulate Paul. Our season of waiting is not an easy one, but we have an opportunity to reflect gratitude toward the One who holds all our circumstances within the palm of His hand. Pray that we can see the care our Father has for us, and that we would rejoice entirely in Him.
Joshua Alexander* and his wife, Margie*, will be serving among Central Asian peoples. (*Names changed for security)