Actually going into all the world is not at all what I had in mind at age 18 or even 28. I just had in mind to teach right where I was at home. When I said yes to the LORD to do his work, I thought I was saying yes to be a teacher and maybe even the wife of a preacher. Yes, I wanted to boldly proclaim the word of God, be a helpmeet to my husband, a loving mother to our children and see thousands of people respond in faith to the LORD’s teaching and examples. Well, it didn’t take long to find out that the ministry even in the comfortable old USA is much different from what I had in mind. I have always loved to teach, but teaching a group of people is a very small portion of what happens during any week.
I remember when my husband and I first married, his maternal aunt counseled us to get a hobby to make our days more interesting. We both laughed because we knew our plan was not just to teach two or three times a week but to serve and bear fruit as well. That would take time. We knew the LORD’s work was so much more.
It’s hard, but little did we know how hard.
Allow me to tell you a few things we have learned over the years of what the ministry really is like. If you are contemplating a life of serving Jesus then you should take time to read this list and see if you are gifted and wired to represent Him. These are things nobody told us.
No one told us that we would visit three children, the youngest a 6-year-old boy, whose father had just died of cancer and try to help them find some kind of comfort—maybe even a family who was willing to take them for their own. And then the next month the family called again to say the children’s mother died of cancer too–both from living under an asbestos roof.
No one told us that people would appear to love us and our children but would turn to despise us because we might have a conscience against what they were asking us to do.
No one told us that church people are mostly loving, but there may be a pocket of cronies in every congregation that are mean as snakes. The LORD still expects us to love those people and bear with their weaknesses.
No one told us what it would be like to name a baby in another country one day.
No one told me what it would be like to teach a ladies’ group in a third world country where meeting halls were often overcrowded and dark and dirty.
No one told us about having to beg a customs agent to let a child’s chemistry set into the country so our son could continue his home schooling. We had paid for the materials and for the shipping, but were expected to pay more than 300% that much again for tax when it arrived.
Nobody told us that we might wait for 3 months to get a letter from home, and maybe twice that long before a check could be cashed to buy our food. No one told us that poor church members would borrow funds to buy our groceries until our check came in.
No one told us what it would be like to be in the room of a person who is dying and looking to you for comfort and words of peace. Nobody told us how shocking and hard it would be to witness a medical assistant plunge a huge syringe into a struggling heart through the lungs and then pull out the plunger to expel the air.
No one told us about the endless phone calls (night and day), visits and emails to try to comfort an abused wife or child of the mentally unstable mate.
No one told us how the work would affect our family. No one told us that when people spoke ill of us it would hurt our children twice as much as it hurt us. Nor did anyone tell us that our children would always have unrealistic expectations set on them by others simply because their dad was a Bible class teacher.
No one told us how hard it would be to visit a couple that we love who just delivered a stillborn child—or to help dig a shallow grave on the beach for a child who died of a contagious disease and therefore could not be buried in the public cemetery.
No one told us what it would be like to be sick with food poisoning in a foreign nation and try to teach with an interpreter through that sickness.
No one told us how hard it would be to see friends with whom we went to college or church services become a statistic of Christians who didn’t make it.
No one told us how it would feel to hear of 1,000 needs and only be able to help a few.
No one told us what it would feel like to be robbed while on a work trip in a third world country.
No one told me or my husband that our best work would not be done from a pulpit, but from the trenches—having hard conversations with people who needed someone to be honest with them.
No one told us of the heart wrenching conversations we would have with so many couples who were on the brink of divorce—with one partner looking to us to help keep it together, while the other only wanted out.
Nobody ever warned us that there would be loving couples who had no right to be married to each other.
No one told us how hard it could be to deal with suicide, how hard it would be to help a family that is destroyed, broken and angry all at once.
No one told us how hard it would be to know the words to say to comfort shattered people when we were the first on the scene after tragedy struck.
No one told us of the joy we would receive when we would go to the hospital to meet new babies that were born to families we loved.
No one told my husband or me of the countless hours of study it would take to be an effective teacher.
No one told us how much the churches would love and embrace our family and meet our every need.
There has been so much we didn’t know…we couldn’t know.
I am so grateful to be one of God’s children—one who is ready and willing to do whatever the LORD presents to us—even if it is hard.
If you are considering marrying a preacher or Christian leader, I would encourage you to count the cost and then remember Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.
Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13. But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14. And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith isalso vain. 15. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17. And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
I have had many people ask me, “What is it that you do during the week?”
Well, come spend a week with us and we will be glad to show you.
Articles and Books by Beth Johnson