There’s such an irony about what we know as, ‘the pain of parting.’ On the one hand, it’s a horrible feeling, because you’re leaving something or someone that you love very much.
On the other hand, if you didn’t feel that pain, you probably didn’t enjoy whatever it is you’re leaving behind.
As I sit here in Perth, having now said our goodbyes and left what has been our home for the past 17 months, I can’t help but think of everything that has happened during my time on the Eyre Peninsula, and as I do so, there is a feeling of sadness.
I had absolutely no expectations before I arriving, and I had no idea what would happen. But, as I look back, I’m glad to be able to do so with gratitude. God’s promise to grant me an awareness of His presence and help (Joshua 1:9; 1 Cor. 1:27) was, to me at least, consciously known.
Ministering in a foreign land
It is no mean task to go to another country, possessing a distinct culture, with different ways of thinking about things and doing things, and be a spiritual leader.
Every pastor knows the weight of pressure upon him as he lives his life before many watching eyes. You’re conscious that you have to be the very best example possible, or else you may be a stumbling block, hindering the spiritual progress of others.
With the cultural differences, you may find you’re being offensive without even realising it. You also have to be careful to avoid falling into the trap of trying to persuade people to be culturally the same as you. Just because people might wear shirts and ties to church in Northern Ireland, doesn’t mean you should demand such in another country (unless you can find a legitimate scriptural argument).
My biggest difficulty
Personally, my biggest battle wasn’t living up to the expectations of others, or trying to adapt to another culture. Those things can be difficult, but God gave the necessary grace. For me, the greatest difficulty was living up to my own expectations, and also the expectations I feel God has for those that preach the gospel. In this area, I feel like I failed — let me rephrase that — I know I failed.
It’s not something you talk about much. But, I wept over and bemoaned my failings every now and again; yet, not half enough. The need to be holy, Spirit-filled, loving, humble, wise, and earnest, was ever before me, and yet a never attained what I hoped for myself.
What I have learned
I have learned so much that I’m aware of, and probably far more that I’m not aware of. The experience has been literally life-changing.
I still don’t know the full reason God sent me out to Australia, but I know it hasn’t been in vain. He has taught me things I could not have learned in Northern Ireland, no matter what I may have been doing. Even my mistakes, I trust, will be profitable for me.
I must therefore, as I look back over the months, give sincere thanks to:
God, for all His help. It would have been impossible without Him.
Family, for supporting us while we’ve been away, and not making us feel too guilty for moving away from them.
The leadership of the FPC, for knowing the mind and will of God to send me, and specifically to my own Pastor, who has supported us in every way possible.
The people in South Australia, who embraced us, loved us, and supported us as we sought to minister among them and to them.
One other word of thanks goes to my wife. I don’t say this lightly. I am proud that she’s my wife. Her support, wisdom, and help to me was, as far as I can tell, flawless. And her public testimony shone throughout the 17 months as an authentic example of biblical womanhood. A preacher couldn’t ask for better!