My Heart a Mission Field

Standing in front of our gas stove and wanting to make a cup of coffee, I felt paralyzed. “Lynell, could you make it?” I had heard about culture shock, but in the first hours after our arrival in a village of south central Côte d’Ivoire, I felt it full-force. Several years of study, including linguistics, French, Bible, and culture adaptation climaxed when my colleague and I met the people for whom we hoped to translate God’s Word.

Our home for the first three months was a mud house with four tiny rooms. Situated near a red dirt road that cut through the rainforest, it drew visitors. Being “on call” all day and into the night challenged me. My energy flagged early in the evening when the “party” was just getting started.

Lynell and I were both tall and willowy, but she had black hair, and I, blond. Nevertheless, our new friends sometimes had trouble telling us apart. While visiting us, they sometimes discussed our differences right in front of us. Some were candid about our figures—at times mortifying us. Others called me, in the early weeks, “the one who can’t talk” (their language). I learned to laugh it off, or swallow hard.

As far as we knew, we were the only Christians in the village; we were the body of Christ for these people. We knew our spiritual enemy would do all he could to divide us. One night I prayed, feeling like Jacob who wrestled with the angel of God for a blessing. Lord, make us a victorious team for the glory of your Kingdom and the salvation of these people. I refuse to accept anything less. God answered by giving us a wonderful friendship that still endures.

Not long after we began studying the language, I recognized Lynell’s gift for linguistic analysis. I learned to rejoice about it and follow her lead. As we worked together over the ensuing months and years, our particular strengths and weaknesses emerged and happily melded into a satisfying work-partnership.

Having been a Christian then for almost twenty years, my own “righteousness” had masked my understanding of the inherent, sinful nature of a heart. Through experiencing culture shock, lack of stamina, embarrassment, and recognition of my weak areas, I felt the struggle of a self-seeking heart. I confessed, “Yes, Lord, you saved me as a young child and I have lived to serve you. But now I see so clearly the ugliness of pride, selfish ambition and self-sufficiency. Forgive me and continue to make my own heart your “mission field.”