Joy in the Journey

Persevering through the muck and mire

By Anonymous

“I feel like we’re trudging through the mud!”

I said this to my husband recently, trying to put into words the painfully slow progress we’ve made on the mission field. We’ve lived in our town ever since the Southeast Asian tsunami.

Initially, when the 2004 disaster hit, there were literally hundreds of like-minded workers in this area. As we have gotten further away from this catastrophe, which claimed the lives of 80 percent of the population where we live, more organizations have left than stayed. Many Christian organizations have been asked to leave for believing differently than the majority faith here. Why has God allowed us to stay?  I’ve asked myself this question many times.  In His grace, He is shaping us through the mountaintops and valleys and using us for His Kingdom here, even though it is often still hard to see what He’s doing in people’s hearts.

When we were up in the capital visiting friends, I saw a banner advertising an upcoming bike event. Wow! I love biking. I have a granny-type bike, complete with a basket in the front and child seat in the back—but I love riding that thing! I once pedaled it along our gorgeous coast for 60 miles, so not having the “right” gear has never been an issue.

I hadn’t brought my granny bike to the capital, so I borrowed my friend’s much better-equipped mountain bike.

With the kids in my husband’s care, I set off to sign up for the event, which would take place the next day. At the registration table, I asked if any other women had entered. “Yes, we do have one other,” the man replied. That was enough for me! I excitedly shelled out my $10; an “anybody-can-join” bike event under sharia law—who wouldn’t?

It rained all night and evidently this kept away the other woman who had registered. So 170 men and I took off that rainy morning on our province’s first bike event of its kind. I did not think much about the downpour the night before—until we left the gorgeous, newly paved curves and headed straight into the mountains.  

At this point I was feeling a little like the apostle Peter, who loved to jump into things with his heart first and brain second. We hit a few puddles on the cow path and then the mud (mixed with cow pies, of course) started getting thicker. I was laughing at the irony. Wasn’t I just saying life felt like we were trudging through the mud?

Nobody was riding anymore because the mud was so thick and overwhelming. Not exactly what I had in mind . . .

Riders were getting stuck left and right. These mountain bikes were made for off-road adventures, but perhaps not the thick, slippery clay we were fighting through. All of a sudden my borrowed bike’s chain fell off. A few guys were kind enough to help me get it in gear again, and off we rode. The trail began to get so muddy that we were unable to ride any longer; everyone dismounted and began pushing the bikes through the mud. Finally, just when we could ride again, something on the frame snapped. 

Oh, shoot, this isn’t even my bike! I thought. I began dragging it along to the next pit stop with hopes it could get fixed again. A kind gentleman sloshed through the mud and offered to drag my bike while I walked his along. Nobody was riding anymore because the mud was so thick and overwhelming. Not exactly what I had in mind when I signed up.

As I plodded along, I thought that not long ago in our ministry, we’d had plenty of forward momentum: new teammates, growing outreach projects, an invitation to stay and work after many organizations had been asked to leave. But in the last year, we have lost our new colleagues, struggled to move forward with half the staff and little government support and, most recently, had our permission to work in that nation significantly questioned by the authorities. 

Trudging through the mud . . .

What God has been shaping in and through the muddy clay of our lives has been intense.

One word has come to our hearts again and again during this time and, yes, during that bike event as well—persevere. When I got my bike to the truck to get it fixed, they offered me a ride to the next stop. I decided I would rather walk in the mud than sit waiting for the truck to fill up with other broken bikes before heading out. All of a sudden it became important for me to keep going despite the broken bike. I wanted to persevere when the trail got tough.

I pondered all of this in my mind as I walked—and then out of nowhere an event staffer drove up on his dirt bike and offered me a ride. I realized that the race organizers felt much worse that I was walking than I did, so I decided to head back with him. I was a bit disappointed, but this wasn’t all about me.

Did I know what I was getting into? Absolutely not. Was God’s hand in all those crazy, sticky circumstances? Yes.

What God has been shaping in and through the muddy clay of our lives has been intense. When I think back over the last year, though, I am honestly thankful. I’m thankful for trudging through the mud and Him sending people along the way to walk beside us.

We have realized more and more our dependence on the Lord in these uncertain and slippery times. The song lyrics “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand . . .” come to mind as we move forward—losing traction at times, laughing and struggling through the mud and just plain persevering with His help.

He is bringing joy along the way. “May the Lord direct [our] hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (2 Thess. 3:5)

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