On our recent trip to visit a missionary couple, Craig and Mary, I admired a pyrex dish that contained the breakfast casserole we were about to eat. Mary agreed that it was the perfect size for a meal for the four of us, but there was more; the dish had a story behind it.
Craig and Mary had come to Brazil with their two little girls many years earlier, and they had brought a pyrex dish just like the one I had admired. They used it often, and it was a favorite—just the right size for a meal for the four of them.
The first thing missionaries need to do when they arrive on the field is learn the language. Craig and Mary were diligently studying Portuguese four days a week, and on Fridays helping in a local ministry where their newly learned language skills were put to the test. Their schedule was full and there was little spare time for preparing elaborate meals, so the casserole dish got a lot of use.
Mornings were often stressful as they got themselves ready for class and got the children ready for school. But they persevered, studying and serving, striving to learn this new language and understand this strange-to-them culture.
After living in Brazil for about nine months, they were getting ready on a Friday morning. They had eaten breakfast, gotten the girls ready for school, and were almost ready to leave for the ministry. Mary was finishing getting herself ready when she heard a CRASH from the kitchen. She ran from the bedroom to see her beloved pyrex dish shattered into a million pieces on the tile floor. It had fallen from the dish rack. She cried as she looked at what had been her dish, but they got it cleaned up and kept going.
But as Craig and Mary were going through the garage on their way out, Mary couldn’t hold back the tears. She started sobbing. Craig was at a loss as to how to console her. Finally, she gained enough control of herself to say, “That dish, shattered on the floor—that’s how I feel.”
It’s hard to learn a new language and adapt to a new culture. It is perhaps the most difficult thing a missionary has to do. And it does shatter you. Letting go of all those things that made life “normal,” and having to learn a whole new set of rules about what normal means is exhausting—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Mary’s heart was shattered, just like that casserole dish, and Craig and their two little girls wanted to help her feel better. That afternoon, while Mary was with some others from their ministry team, Craig took the girls and went shopping for a replacement for the dish. He found it—but the replacement was only available in a set of three. So instead of one perfect casserole dish, Mary now has three of them.
Mary was disappointed at losing her favorite casserole dish, and at that moment she probably needed a hug more than a lesson. But later she was able to see the lesson in the shattered dish. God shatters us to then remold us into the people he wants us to be, better than before, perfectly formed for the life and ministry he has prepared for us.
Craig and Mary got through language school and have adapted well to their country of service. They have had a thriving ministry there for nearly 20 years. Will you pray for them as they continue to lead and minister? And will you pray for those who are just starting out in their ministries and who are perhaps at the point of feeling shattered?