In this months's NZBMS feature article, we look at three people - a 'sort-of' fitter, a farmer and a florist - who wondered if God could use them overseas and are discovering the answer is, "yes."
The 'sort of' Fitter
When asked about his career, Ian finds it difficult to answer. Starting as a draughtsman, he spent thirty years in New Zealand working in civil construction, signwriting, hobby importing/distributing and property development. So he’s not really a fitter at all, just a clever guy who can do many things well.
But did Ian ever think about how his many skills could be used? “Thinking of the future and how I could apply my skills was something I did a lot,” he admits, “but not in terms of mission, no way! If anyone had asked me at the time I would have struggled to make a connection. My wife was keen on mission but my response was always, ‘if he makes it happen that’s cool but there will be a lot he has to sort out.’”
Well, ‘he’ did make it happen and Ian has an interesting take using his skills overseas. “Through all the opportunities and challenges I’ve received in my ‘careers,’ my skill base has become wide which means I can turn my hand to most things. But there is something more important – your mind-set. It’s not just being able to do what’s needed; it’s being willing to do what’s needed. It’s your skills and your heart that are needed and actually that’s the cool part.”
What would Ian say to someone who has thought of working overseas but felt they had nothing to offer? His answer is encouraging, “Throughout life I never noticed God’s training amidst all my ventures and challenges. But as I look back, his hand is obvious. Where I am now, there’s not much need for any of the careers mentioned above, but the skills and experience gained are invaluable. So, the opportunity to use the God-inspired life training plan – the personal one he created just for you – is always there. And what does it take to use it? Easy answer: just get off your ‘butt’ and get rid of your ‘buts;’ he will do the rest.”
For over twenty years, Colin was a dairy farmer in the Kaimai Ranges. He was pretty good at it and had built a sizable farming business. Could a down-to-earth Kiwi bloke like him be used overseas?
In 2010, Colin and his wife Tania, a primary school teacher, visited one of Marketplacer’s businesses in South Asia. He left feeling completely overwhelmed, with many doubts about what he had to offer, but knowing for sure that he’d been called by God; and to be obedient to that call meant the answers to all his doubts had to be surrendered.
These days, Colin is involved in an initiative with farming goats – not something he ever dreamed he’d be involved in. To the uninitiated, farming is farming but working with cows is completely different to working with goats. In fact, the only previous experience Colin had with goats was shooting the feral ones that wandered out of the bush to eat his pasture.
So, has Colin been able to use his previous skills overseas? He explains, “only a little so far as we learn the language and culture. But it’s amazing what the average Kiwi can do when the need arises. I’m not sure whether it is miscommunication or in response to what the local villagers see me doing, but they seem to think I’m a vet! I’ve learned a few new skills, like basic electrical installation and plumbing... mainly how local septic tanks work and how to unblock them!”
We asked Colin what he would say to someone who was thinking of working overseas but felt they had little to offer. His answer was, “the repeating theme through our Father’s word is that he seeks availability over ability. Simply trust him.”
Jo’s background before commencing work amongst the poor of South Asia was to work as a florist for fourteen years. “I started as a junior florist in Dunedin,” she explains. “My first day on the job was in Valentine’s week. It was rather a ‘dropped in the deep end’ experience!”
Within a short while, Jo ended up in Auckland and developed a reputation as a first-class flower arranger. “In Auckland, I worked for two flower shops with two very different business philosophies. One focused on making money, the other on selling flowers. Those two situations taught me some lasting life lessons.”
Floristry isn’t a skill that immediately comes to mind when we think of ministry overseas but then, Jo had never intended to end up overseas. However, like so many others, it’s as she looks back that Jo can see how many valuable lessons and skills she learned through her life journey that are now an important part of her current work. “I haven’t done any flower arranging here but a big part of my role is administration. Those are skills I developed while serving floristry clients. I am often the first contact people have with the Marketplacers business and I’ve learned to become friends with those who email us, answering as many questions as they might have. “I’m amazed at the practical skills I’ve picked up that come in handy also. One thing I’m really certain of is this; no one should ever think they have nothing to offer! Our Father is working in your life, teaching you things you didn’t know you would need in the future, so that you can go and make a difference! I’m a florist, and yet through that, I’ve learnt things that have equipped me for the work here.”
1. If you felt God calling you to overseas mission, what would your immediate response be?
2. Have you ever felt such a call but not responded to it? What stopped you going?
The full interviews can be read on the NZBMS website at nzbms.org.nz.
Image Credit: Passion Images/shutterstock.com