One big thing that God has taught me so far in this country... the huge difference between success and victory.
When people ask me, "So, what exactly are you doing in Japan?" I answer the scripted, "Helping a Japanese church do church planting." To which, the same people inevitably say, "So, how's the church planting going?"
I wish I could say that it's going splendidly. But it isn't. I wish I could say that we've (Date church and I) made huge strides. But we haven't. Basically, I wish I could say that in the Date area there is at least one group of people away from the mother church, that meets together to worship God and are seeing many people become Christian. But it's not happening that way. This isn't to say that my efforts have been completely unfruitful. We've made steps. We've seen great things happen. It's just that, well, to me, we're moving at a snail's pace.
Interesting thing about missions or probably any ministry occupation, there's an incredible pressure to succeed. Yes, there is a lot of pressure on everybody to succeed. But there's an added pressure that is very unique to this field of work. I experience it every month when I write those newsletters. As with most other fields, this field's success is often measured by numbers and tasks accomplished. It is often perceived that if nothing is accomplished, that is, no goals are realized, that the labor was in vain.
If this is success, God doesn't guarantee success. No, but God does guarantee victory. Victory cannot be measured by numbers. Victory cannot be measured by the list of goals that have been met. There is no prerequisite for victory checklist. Victory is knowing that when all is set and done, we'll meet up with Him and hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" After all, labor isn't in vain if we don't see results. Labor is in vain if we don't join God in His work. And sometimes, that requires "failure" on our part.