It was 1994 when Tanya and I joined Mission Aviation Fellowship, and I was not the typical missionary candidate. While most of MAF’s career missionaries join the ministry in their 20s, I was already middle-aged. Nor did I have the benefit of a Christian upbringing and education, as I came to know the Lord much later in life. I was also from South Africa rather than North America—another oddity in the U.S. office of MAF. Thankfully, these “barriers” weren’t really barriers at all, and 20 years later we are still serving God through this remarkable organization.
As I reflect on these 20 years, here are a few things I have realized:
1. God uses who He wants to use. Despite my untypical profile, the Lord has been able to use me to help build His kingdom, whether I am flying an airplane or flying a desk. This is due solely to His Spirit working in me and conforming me to His image.
2. Christian leaders are fallen people, just like everyone else. Although we often put them on pedestals, viewing them as “uber-spiritual,” Christian leaders are subject to the same faults and temptations as everyone else. They too need God’s mercy and forgiveness, and must depend on Him, rather than their own abilities, to lead their organizations forward along the right path.
3. Look out for the REAL enemy. It’s natural to become exasperated at difficult people or situations. However, the scriptures remind us that spiritual warfare is happening all around us and we need be on the lookout for the real enemy. Men and women of God—especially those in ministry—must be aware of this and equip themselves with the armor of God. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” —Ephesians 6:12
4. It’s okay to be comfortable with who I am. Rather than trying to be the leader that others want, I need to lead as God created me to lead. The gifts and personality He has endowed me with are adequate for the tasks ahead of me, as long as I am relying on His strength rather than my own.
Twenty years change everyone. I hope that I have changed in ways that allow me to grow in the grace of Jesus and serve Him more effectively. I want to continue to be transformed in His image in the next 20 years.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” —Romans 12:2