Keith and Barbie Jackson

Halfway around the world

Why would God bring us all this way to have our vision curtailed?

"Hearing the call to the mission field was inconvenient," says Keith, a busy pastor in a large Elim church. Barbie his wife who was also enjoying her role as a midwife in the local hospital. But they responded to the call... and then lockdown hit.

Here's their story.

"Having always had a big heart for missions and having been involved with overseas work for most of our Christian lives, it was not a great leap to find ourselves on a plane to South Africa to work alongside Elim's global partner Emmanuel Assemblies.

"The dream was, and still is, to help train leaders, plant new churches, minister to pregnant women through a mobile antenatal clinic, and investigate establishing a home for vulnerable children and HIV orphans. 

"When we arrived we had to adapt to life with intermittent electricity and water supplies. We learned a little about one of the local languages and strengthened relationships with the local Christians.

"Then the pandemic hit. And it hit South Africa hard.

"As a nation, South Africa leads the continent with the number of infections and deaths. A weakened infrastructure and an economy already in the recession were not able to cope with the demands of the outbreak. Unemployment rocketed to over 31 per cent and crime rose exponentially. 

"We have been watching the UK news with interest, and praying for our homeland. It has been said that we are all in the same boat. That’s not quite true. We are all in the same storm, but we are in very different boats.

"Our lockdown measures here meant churches were closed. Church planting and our other activities became impossible. So we found ourselves asking: 'Why are we here?' It would have been far more manageable to be home, even in lockdown, than to be living in a Third World environment.

"Why would God bring us halfway around the world and then have the vision curtailed?

Here are some things that have kept us going in the midst of these questions:

1. God’s thoughts are higher than ours: Isaiah 55:8.

In the midst of the unexpected and unprecedented, God already knows. He has positioned us all, where we are right now, to be light in the darkness. He is still in control and has a plan.

2. For such a time as this: Esther 4:14.

Esther found herself in an unexpected position but was able to wield great influence. She had to adapt. So have we.

We now distribute 'baby boxes' containing supplies to a pregnant woman with the essentials they need for their newborn, including a Bible in their home language. We have participated in the ERA Covid appeal, and have been able to distribute food to around 4,000 people. One pastor said his village would have been overlooked if Elim missionaries were not here. Several people have joined churches and are now being discipled.

The lesson? Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

3. Delay is not a destination: 1 Timothy 3:15.

The Bible is replete with stories that involve delay. Joseph, Moses, the nation of Israel and others all seemed to experience apparent delays. In these times we seek to learn what we must so that when the opportunity comes we are ready to step up and step out in obedience.

4. The sun will rise again: Psalm 30:5.

We are living in darker times; times of weeping and mourning. But joy is promised, and joy is coming. The new dawn will rise and we will emerge wiser, transformed, stronger and ready for what lies ahead. In the meantime, we have learned to walk gently through a season of unrealistic expectations."

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