28 February, 2011

A self-feeder

A friend (a former missionary) wrote a post the other day about what she'd advised someone preparing to go to Japan as a missionary. The phrase "self-feeder" has stuck in my mind.

She wrote:
Keep growing in what it means to be a self-feeder (all the cultural reinforcements of Christianity are NOT present in Japan).
It is so true - you need to be a self-feeder to survive in another culture where your heart language isn't spoken. I think this is one thing that can make a missionary seem like a Super-Christian when they're back home. It is because they have learned how to feed themselves spiritually, rather than relying on weekly church attendance, Bible studies etc. to feed them. It has a maturing effect. Probably a bit like moving out of home has a maturing effect on most people - they learn how to look after themselves, rather than be coddled at home.

In a place where you cannot expect to understand the sermon and it takes years to feel comfortable expressing yourself in your new language. Where perhaps you are the one leading the Bible study and discipling new believers. Where there aren't regular conferences or retreats. Where there isn't a bookstore or library down the road with books you can read. Where you probably don't have many friends who you can speak to in your heart language. When you live in a place like this, you need to find ways to feed yourself spiritually. To consciously fix your eyes on Jesus.

A few things I've done are making an effort to abstain, at times, from easy, fiction reading and concentrate on edifying reading. Listen to sermons on tape or CD or on-line. Posting Bible verses around the house where I can easily see them. Prayer meetings. Missionary conferences. Seeking deep fellowship where I can. And of course, regular time in the Word.

Me and a good friend at the women's retreat four years ago.
This week I have an extra special treat of joining in a women's retreat. Each year the joint missionary association (JEMA) here holds a three day women's retreat in this area and a one day event in Sapporo. I've been as often as I can with three young children. It is a great time of fellowship and spiritual refreshment and challenge. I usually come home inspired and enthusiastic. I'm looking forward to this one!

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