Last October, I took a trip with TEAM, the missions organization I work for, to Spain and Portugal. On the trip, we explored the culture of each city and learned about the religious implications Spanish and Portuguese history have on sharing the Gospel today. This post is a long time coming…this trip had a profound effect on my heart and mind, but I wanted to process internally before putting it out there.
The beginning of a story is exciting, full of possibilities.
The end of a story is typically full of gratitude, thanksgiving, and excitement for the next steps.
But the middle of the story—that’s the everyday, one foot in front of the other part. It’s the drudgery, the hard work, the repetitiveness. The middle can be simple and even boring. But it’s also where the faithfulness is born.
One of my favorite things of my trip to Spain and Portugal was walking the journey of a church plant just outside of Porto, Portugal. I read this story from TEAM about this church’s journey and their difficulties finding a place to meet and grow as a body of believers. Communities in Porto are really suspicious of evangelical organizations. Some people might even compare them to a cult. But the Holy Spirit moved and this body of believers continued to grow—building or not.
This church got kicked out of the missionary’s living room, then moved to a space next to a bar. They were kicked out of there, and moved into a restaurant, only to quickly outgrow the space. They made another move to a larger building. They put so much sweat and tears into this next location to make it welcoming for visitors, but they outgrew this building, too, and knew they wouldn’t be able to find a building for rent that was big enough to hold them. Through more sweat, tears, and prayer, they eventually were able to purchase their own three story building and even build a beautiful sanctuary.
That evening, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of this church with the body of Portuguese believers there. There were young people leading worship as we sang, “Greater things are yet to come in this city.” It was surreal, this beautiful redemptive story wrapped in a bow. God provided the church with a building, where they are now thriving!
Looking back, it is so easy to forget all the doubts and questioning and the beginning and middle of this story. People came and went from this church throughout the years. Missionaries were lonely as they made a home away from what they knew. There were probably many nights wondering where there congregation could meet that week. Yet, all the while, God was moving them closer to this moment of celebration, inch by inch.
Here’s the thing: we all have a middle to our stories. We all have the moments where we are so unsure we are where we are supposed to be that we want to quit. When things are so difficult that it’s easier to pack up and go home. But sometimes God asks us to show up in the middle and do the hard work and if we refuse, our stories don’t get the victorious endings they deserve. They don’t express the faithfulness of showing up every day to the thing you’re called to and doing it without glamor or fanfare.
It reminds me of one of my very favorite verses, “Let us hold unswervingly to this faith we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” Let us show up in the middle, let us keep doing the work God puts before us. Let us keep showing up, day in and day out. Let us hold unswervingly to our faith, even when it’s plain and simple and boring. I love the beginnings and the endings, but I hope I get better at the glorious, faithful middle.