Some of the most incredible adventures of my ministry come from constantly being at the mercy of someone else’s planning. As a videographer, I come along as a ministry aid, never really part of the planning committee. At best, travel in 3rd world countries is unreliable, but I’ve lost count of how often I’m met and detained by men carrying machine guns. I take a great deal of technology with me when I go overseas. The ministry calls it marketing and filming equipment. Foreign countries call it “surveillance equipment”, so you can imagine I spend a good deal of time with customs officers explaining my humanitarian goals in their country.
For half of the mission trips I’ve gone on, I traveled alone into the country with the plan of “meeting up” with the other team members in the country. Ergo, the other half, I traveled with the missions teams. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I prefer to plan my own travel. It takes a lot less faith to follow the Holy Spirit saying, “Here am I Lord, send me.” than it does a team leader I’ve never been outside of the country with before saying, “We will figure it out when we get there.” I am not the only member of teams that hears Ricky Ricardo’s voice as he says,
“Lucy?! You got some splaining to do!” when there seem to be details missing from the plan.
I’ve been lost in the jungle of the Amazon Basin with a missionary who couldn’t remember the way out. I was unexpectedly diverted to Ethiopia when a team planned to arrive 3 hours early to the connecting flight instead of their international flight. I’ve been left with only volunteer native translators to travel 3+ hours into city slums because of overbooking. On my second missions trip, I even got stuck on the unsecured side of an international airport while the rest of the team made it through security and back to the States with no problems. As I said, I’ve had some adventures.
There are things I don’t do when I travel internationally trying to cut back on the amount of “adventures” I get stamped in my passport. I don’t intentionally set out to have an adventure if I can help it. So there are a few things that I steer clear of when I see someone else hitting the adventure button.
Here are two primary examples.
One: I don’t wear team shirts.
In many countries, it is a security risk to announce who you are and why you are there. I don’t want to be tracked to where I am staying to be robbed or kidnapped. There are many records of teams getting flagged in the airport by gangs or religious extremists and then followed. Does the shirt say where you are from or who you are there to help? It is a billboard for criminals. It is also often a determent in the places I go to be labeled American. I learned in Italy that if I spoke English with a German accent, hecklers/pickpockets would leave me alone. I love getting T-shirts. I wear them all the time stateside as a beautiful memory, but I promised my military father I would not wear one overseas.
Two: I don’t get in the water.
I love swimming--grew up with a pool in my backyard. I don’t get in the water. I don’t get in the local river to bathe. God provided baby wipes, dry shampoo, and strong deodorant for a reason. I’ve traveled through piranha, alligator, crocodile, anaconda, electric eel, and, worst of all, parasitic (they enter through skin contact) waters. I made a promise to my mother that I have no intention of breaking. I don’t get in the water.
I will share the most important lesson I’ve learned “traveling in someone else’s ship.”
The Bible says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7)
I’ve been told not to have a spirit of fear by very well-meaning people traveling with me. I’ve been told that God protects so that it will be ok. Let me give anyone reading this a resounding thought to consider before going overseas on a missions trip. Don’t get in the ship with someone who is professing to have no fear if they are not also clearly displaying evidence of God’s power, sacrificial love, and a sound mind. Remember, Jesus and Jonah slept without fear at the bottom of a boat in the middle of a ship-breaking storm. But then again, no one claims Jonah had a “sound mind.”
When you are overseas answering the call of the Holy Spirit to “go,” you will face obstacles. Satan does not want the gospel shared. He will attack you mentally, physically, and spiritually. It takes faith to get in the ship and leave the harbor. I believe it takes even more faith to get in the ship when you have no control over the speed, heading, or accommodations. Knowing God called you means you can avoid the spirit of fear even in someone else’s ship.
My favorite example of this is Paul. Acts 27 tells the story of Paul sailing to Rome as a prisoner under a centurion guard awaiting his fate. In verse 10, he warns them that it was too dangerous to travel.
“And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.”
They didn’t listen to him. Paul had no choice. He was in someone else’s ship.
“Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul” (vs 11).
Paul knew the shipwreck was coming. He had a sound mind and understood the conditions were unsuitable for sailing. They start out with a beautiful slight breeze, so everyone thought things were going great and Paul was mistaken. But the Bible says it was not long before a tempest raged. It was so bad that they began throwing the goods overboard to avoid sinking. Paul was in the middle of a storm of someone else’s making.
Several days passed before Paul spoke up again. Let that sink in, several days of storms and he said nothing. When he spoke it started with his polite but pointed, I told you so, which was not said to bring honor to himself. He gave it as a reminder, hoping to have built credibility because God gave him more warnings that could save the lives of over 200 people on board the ship with him. Paul loved enough to encourage them in their fear. God’s message of how to survive didn’t have to be shared. God didn’t send the angel to everyone. It was a personal message to Paul. Paul KNEW his fate. He spoke up for their sake, not his own. Twice more, Paul would speak up in an attempt to save lives.
This time they listened.
I believe all of us, at one time or another, will be “in someone else’s ship.” Seemingly your fate will be in someone else’s hands but take heart. The Holy Spirit inside of you has not faltered or failed. Paul’s fate belonged to no one but God. Ours also belong to no one but God. Did they lose everything but their lives? Yes. Sometimes there are significant losses, sometimes minor inconveniences, and other times there are doors that will forever close.
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Romans 13:1)
Our government officials may make unjust laws we suffer from for years. Bosses might make your life stressful with unrealistic expectations.
The good news is that the Holy Spirit’s gifts of power, love, and a sound mind will overcome life’s storms if we continue to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh. It doesn’t matter whose ship God sent you in as long as you are sure He sent you. There may come a time when you say like Peter and the apostles, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
But for most of us, we will struggle to work with people that we aren't walking together with in the Spirit. Many today aren’t "disobeying" the Word of God, they are just not moving and walking in the Spirit. If you spoke the truth in love from a sound mind and not a spirit of fear, then prepare your floatation device. You’re in a ship that is going to start rocking like a roller coaster, go ahead and throw your hands up in the air. Someone hit the adventure button. Grab your floaties in case God brings the ship down.
It doesn't change the need to have faith that God put you in the ship for a reason. Paul’s testimony was powerful. He often spoke of how God brought him through hard times, caused by obedience alone, to show the sincerity and validity of his ministry. Fair warning, if you are the Jonah on the ship and the storm is because of you, God will make that plain too. Remember, Jonah didn’t confess. They figured it out and he affirmed it. Don’t let your pride, disobedience, or anger cause someone else to go through a storm because God put you in the same boat.
I started this by saying, “Some of the most incredible adventures of my ministry come from constantly being at the mercy of someone else’s planning.” I’ve spent a great deal of my life riding along with people for a short time in their boats. It is the nature of my ministry. I travel. When it is smooth sailing or when a tempest rises, it is the Holy Spirit inside of me that gives me the peace to know when to sail and when to wait. If at times you find yourself on a boat you know is heading into a storm regardless of your warning remember Jesus sent his disciples into a storm more than once. He was there for them, and he will be there for you. God does amazing things in storms.
Ships are safest in the harbor, but that is not what they were built to do.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7) Pray God gives the captain of your ship a sound mind or you a floaty. If we happen to ever be on a missions trip together just know and prepare because someone is going to hit the adventure button, but I promise, it won’t be me.