Based on Episode 04 of the “Modern Day Missionaries” Podcast in an interview with Ps. Robert Barriger
Who’s feeling a little lonely today? Survey says, if you’re a missionary, there’s a good chance you are. You’re out there, surrounded by and ministering to people. You sure don’t look lonely to an outside observer! But you feel it, deep in your soul. Pastor Robert Barriger, a missionary of nearly 40 years in Lima, Peru, says that the most important factor that has helped his relationship with God stay vibrant, is staying connected to community. And he’s an introvert. Big time.
When we think of cultivating our faith, those of us who come from individualistic countries, such as the U.S., often immediately go to activities we can do alone. Praying by ourselves. Reading the Word by ourselves. But we were never intended to live a life of faith alone. That’s just lonely. So what about the people we serve? Of course, God calls us to live our faith out with them. That is the beautiful and messy part of any minister in any context. But, as Barriger points out, we also need friendships outside of the church or ministry we’re serving as well.
“We minister to many, but we get close to a few.”
We need friends who are safe spaces to process the deep parts of us. Who are both non-judgmental but also challenging. Who know us and love us and spur us on to good deeds. Who can pray for us, and we can pray for them. How do we find these friends if we can’t find them? Barriger says, “It takes a long time to make old friends. You need some old friends––people who have been around since you started. Hold on to those old friends. “A man asked a gardener, ‘When is the best time to plant a tree?’ ‘Ten years ago,’ he said, “because then today you would be living under its leaves and enjoying its fruit.’ “‘Well…when is the second best time to plant a tree,’ the man asked. ‘Today,’ replied the gardener.”
If you don’t have old friends, begin to make them today, and as the years grow, you will both be able to sit under each other’s leaves and enjoy each other’s fruit. And to those who have tried and have still not found these kinds of friends, Barriger says, “Keep trying until you find them! Be available to be hurt.” Don’t let rejection or frustration shut you down. You might find someone you want to be friends with, but they don’t have the margin for new friends. That hurts! But keep trying. An old friend might pull away after years of friendship. That hurts! But keep trying. You might be betrayed or let down or ignored…the list goes on. But recognize these for what they are: the tactics of the enemy to get you to isolate.
And weird things happen in isolation. We begin to believe the lies of the enemy rather than talk about them with friends who can remind us of God’s truth. We begin to, like the prophet Elijah, cry out to God, “I’m alone! I’m the only one!” when God wants to remind us through close friendships that we are anything but alone. Relationships can be the biggest source of pain in our lives. But God has designed them to also be the biggest source of blessing.
Don’t let the past, present, or potential pain of people close you down.
Take a deep breath, and let God bring people into your life who will come alongside you, and you alongside them. Who will infuse your relationship with God with life and energy, allowing you to serve him fully and on fire, wherever He has placed you.
To hear the full interview with Robert Barriger, check out the “Modern Day Missionaries” Podcast.
Mentioned Resources in Podcast
Honour Found: Experiencing the Power of the Honour Principle and How it Can Add Significance to Your Life by Robert Barriger
La Iglesia Relevante by Robert Barriger
Filtros: Criterios para decidir mejor by Robert Barriger
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene Peterson
Ways to Connect With Robert Barriger
Instagram: @robertbarriger @caminodevida
Modern Day Missionaries Facebook Group (For Modern Day Missions missionaries)
Velvet Ashes missionary community for women
Find Your People by Jennie Allen
The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship by Jonathan Holmes
A Beginner’s Guide to Crossing Cultures: Making Friends in a Multicultural World by Patty Lane