myMISSION Blog

Listening Is like Exercise

I’ve lived in Birmingham, Alabama, for 12 years. Moving here was scary. It was the largest city I’d ever called home. I went to college with my roommates but had never lived with any of them before. Nonetheless, I took the leap. And it was terrible. I’ll spare the details but, as a result, I began to suffer from mild depression. I needed to talk to someone and work through what I was experiencing. I needed that individual to have no personal stake in my situation.

So, I found a Christian counselor. We talked about what was happening in my life, what had happened in my past, and what I wanted for my future. She gave me the confidence to face some issues, overcome some fears, and remember what true surrender to the Lord looks like. I moved out of that apartment. It was lonely and scary, but it was the right thing to do.

Since that phase of my life, I have tried to be the kind of friend and ministry partner who knows when others need to talk and is available to listen. And the trick to listening is that it’s like exercise. You have to do it to get better at it.

Just Listen: 3 Ways to Connect Your Family to People Groups

We fell in love with South Asians. Maybe it was the warm milk tea, the curried food, the bells and loud music, or the welcoming smiles (OK, sometimes stares), but South Asians stole our hearts. Since moving to a rural area of Alabama, we wanted to look for ways our family could meet South Asians in our area. At first, we were told there weren’t many South Asians in this area. As we began to seek internationals in our area, we found that many families from South Asia reside in our town, and we wanted to get to know them.

A dinner, an English class, a Thanksgiving celebration—whatever could be used as a way to build relationships—we wanted to connect. We had a successful first get-together. Then for a couple months afterward, we tried to establish something else. And for months, this “something else” never quite worked out. The relationships were there just not the events.

What were we doing wrong? We weren’t listening—to God, to the people we were trying to reach, or to our family’s missional gifts.

The following are a few ways we’ve learned to connect to a people group through listening:

The Blessing of Listening

When was the last time you really felt heard? When have you really felt like you heard someone else’s heart?

This month, we have been thinking a lot about how to grow relationships. One way that is harder than it sounds is by learning to listen.

The gift of listening is more than just keeping our mouths shut. To listen, really listen, we need to engage with our minds and hearts. We need to enter into someone else’s reality to the point that we can sense what God is doing in their lives. It is rarely what we think about on the surface. Something is always deeper. Our God’s love is deep and wide. It removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. Truly only He knows the plans He has for us. Only He can walk us through the valleys. Our relationships with others recognize His work in their lives and we must listen well to even begin to see His ways. He often surprises us in the journey.

If I Will, You Will

One minute I had my perfect post-college plans set, and the next I was convinced they would never come to fruition.

The plan (or so I had hoped) was to move overseas in 2015, a few months after graduation. I saw no need to look for a full-time job or move back in with my parents, because I was going to start my life as a cross-cultural worker when I wanted.

It quickly became apparent that my timeline and God’s timeline weren’t matching up, despite my best attempts to get my way. I went to my university pastor for advice, and he told me to pray and listen to what God was telling me about it.

I prayed and very clearly God told me, “If the Lord wills, you will do this, but wait.”

While that wasn’t the answer I wanted, I listened, and it paid off. I’m only a few months into my term, but I can see that if I hadn’t waited and listened, delaying my plans by a year, so much would be different.

Even as I try to stay focused on my work in South Asia, I find myself wondering about what’s next, and He continues to remind me, “If the Lord wills.”

London, Listening, and Counter-Cultural Living

If we are going to make changes in our culture, we have to live counter-culturally. A mentor of mine often repeats these simple, wise words. Opportunities to live in a way that challenges our culture are easy to find in college. By choosing to make godly decisions in the midst of the temptations and challenges students face almost daily, counter-cultural and cultural living can seem as starkly different as black and white.

Then, suddenly, something happens that rips you away from your comfortable student bubble. You could graduate, transfer colleges, or even simply realize that you don’t know your university as well as you thought you did. If you’re like me, you can study abroad for a semester in London and realize just how little you really understand about other cultures. I no longer have the luxury of simply living against the status quo. I first have to identify differences between England and my home that do not reflect God and then live against the flow. In new places, though, not getting caught up in the flow is hard to do.

Make an Impact for the Kingdom

As a young professional, you’re probably working hard to make ends meet. (Maybe your ends meet just fine, but that hasn’t always been the case for me.) When you work hard to earn every penny, it probably means your two most valuable resources are time and money. You have to spend 40-ish hours a week at work, so the time you have left you want to spend relaxing, hanging out with friends and family, or participating in your favorite hobbies. These can all be good, God-glorifying things. Why the pressure to invest your precious moments in other people? Because people matter to God.

Three Ways We Invest Our Time as a Family

We moved from a South Asian city back to an American city. In South Asia, relationships trump tasks. You may begin to leave your house to run errands, but if a neighbor shows up, you stay and serve them chai. Relationships come before tasks.

Moving back to the Untied States made me question how I would spend my time. Add in being a new momma (and, for the first time, a stay-at-home mom), being a pastor’s wife, and living in a new town; I had many avenues where I could invest my time.

Love God. Love my family. Love my neighbor.

These three things have become themes in our family. Here are some ways we choose to invest our time as a family each day:

World Water Day: Pure Water, Pure Love

How many times have you used water today? Did you stop and wonder if the water was clean? Most likely you use water more times in a day than you realize and you are blessed with not having to wonder whether the water you are drinking is safe and clean. However, this is not the case in many places around the world. Did you know that more than 663 million people lack access to clean water? The need for clean water access is great as the lack of clean water leads to numerous water-related diseases. Consider the following:

Gifts of Hope Ministry Set

Gifts of Hope Ministry Set

Stuart Davidson, pastor of Eastern Shore Baptist Church, says this about these meaningful devotional books, “The ‘Gifts of Hope’ series answers the call to cast our burdens at the feet of Jesus and encourages the reader to cling to the One who provides peace everlasting—Jesus Christ.”

As we work together for His kingdom, national WMU is excited to offer a new ministry idea to serve others. We are looking for groups to offer a special ministry project within your community. This idea works especially well for small groups such as Adult Sunday School classes and missions or discipleship study groups. For $125, you receive a Gifts of Hope Ministry Set to put in a high traffic area within your community such as a waiting room for a doctor, dentist, chiropractor, diagnostic testing center, lawyer office, food pantry, clothes closet, even an auto repair service shop or tire store. The possibilities are endless. If you have 13 people in your small group, everyone contributes about $10.00. So, please purchase a Gifts of Hope Ministry Set and get started today.

Time Well Spent

Investing time in a relationship is messy. It means letting go of your best-laid plans in exchange for someone else. It means sacrificing your time for the sake of another.

But, what if that sacrifice means the other person had a better idea of who Jesus is because of spending time with you?

As believers, that’s the opportunity we have. Whether you find yourself in the suburbs, a college dorm, or like me, across the ocean in a new country, we’re called to invest time in those God has placed around us for the gospel.

Investing time means putting all we have into a relationship with a friend, family member, or co-worker. So if that person hasn’t heard of the grace Jesus offers, they will know it as a result of being around us.

What does that look like? Well, thankfully, God hasn’t left us without an example.

In Luke 19:1­–10, we see Jesus invest time in Zacchaeus. Here Jesus was, just passing through Jericho when, in verse five, Jesus tells the tax collector, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5 NIV).

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