“And that,” I told the refugee students in front of me–tears hovering in my eyes as my hands lowered after my animated lecture–“is what I’ve been waiting to tell you.”
I drew a few deep breaths. After a semester of drawing this group of students through the storytelling of the Old Testament–half of them Muslim–I had finally culminated in showing how Jesus al Masih (Jesus the Messiah) was the fulfillment of every story.
Like the Passover they’d glimpsed when we watched The Prince of Egypt together. The biblical prophesies from which they’d filled in the crossword puzzle I’d made online. The story of Abraham lifting his blade over his only son’s neck.
Some of my students cheered. Honestly, I can’t remember the minutes between that statement and the moment I collected my props and learning aids and eased out the door. I was surprised to find my British friend, Jazz, waiting near my car.
“I sat outside your classroom. That,” she said, “was incredible.”
Even typing this now, tears rise in my eyes.
I still don’t know how that day affected my students, or whether it moved the needle in the minds of my Muslim friends. All I know about that moment was the power of what I believe to be the Holy Spirit:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
And, I think, the deep satisfaction of As far as I could, I was faithful here.
Sharing the Wins: Why it Matters
I don’t tell you this not to toot my own puny horn. I tell you this because in that moment, my friend witnessed something, and we praised God together. (A much bigger horn needed to be tooted there.)
And after a long, sweaty semester with limited visible “fruit,” someone witnessed what God was doing in our midst, and helped me sink into that beauty.
We speak openly on Go. Serve. Love about the cost of missions, why to put in the hard work for language learning, and what to expect with gee-that’s-fun topics like culture shock, hard goodbyes, selling your stuff, or the stress on your marriage.
But moving overseas is also chockful of God’s beauty and faithfulness. I witnessed His power there in ways I’ve rarely seen elsewhere. And I fell in love with him and his heart more than ever.
Sometimes, like I witnessed in my own life even this week, celebrating out loud is a way of putting skin on how God responds to us, in his own bounding, bursting-at-the-buttons joy.
And the Bible’s clear that sharing the wins in community ratchets our joy up a notch.
In 1 John 1, John writes,
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it …
so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (vv. 1-4, emphasis added)
The apostles shared their hands-on experience with God so their joy could be all-in. Full-up. The Greek word for “complete” here also means satisfied, finished.
We see celebration all over Luke 15 in contexts relevant to missions–in the shepherd who finds his sheep, the woman who finds her coin, the father whose son comes home.
On Couples (and Missions teams) who make it
I see this in David, too. Psalm 40:9 echoes his common theme throughout the Psalms:
I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord.
My takeaway: God is working among us. We do strive to see his glory (Exodus 33:18). For Pete’s sake, let’s talk about it. Let’s shout about it!
Powerful parallels can be drawn from modern research on marriage. Scientists have found that whether a couple celebrates the wins together is a better predictor of their longevity than whether they suffer well together. (See a more plainspoken version of this research here.)
I assume this extends to mission teams, too–who often struggle through conflict, evacuations, turnover, and other forms of loss. Funding the team’s “This Work Matters Savings and Loan” account by sharing the wins fuels us to stick it out in harder times.
Even in persecution, the apostles “left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” Paul and Silas, too, famously worshiped God–arguably their own “celebration” of God–in prison in Acts 15.
Sharing the Wins: Ideas to Do It Well
So what could this look like?
- Call a friend, or friends, after that meaningful conversation, that big financial support donation, that little “wow!” moment with a growing relationship overseas.
- In your team’s office or even in your own home, consider depositing “wins” on slips of paper into a jar to be read out loud on a regular basis (maybe at lunch together, or at a monthly meeting?). You could also collect them on a poster board.
- Regularly hold an open-mic time sharing time of answers to prayer at your local church.
- Consistently journal your “wins”, and as this brings them to mind, share them with others when you have opportunity.
- Celebrate with your family over dinner, sharing God’s faithfulness with your kids.
- Several times a week, initiate “what’s going right” conversations with your spouse and/or a close friend. No need to be Pollyanna about it. Just recall God’s faithfulness, and get grateful.
- Regularly let your financial support team know not only prayer requests, but ways God’s answering prayer.
- Shape the culture on your team by celebrating right in the middle of conversation: “Hey, that sounds like a big win, actually. I’m celebrating that with you!”
- Be willing to pull a small group of people into your family’s hard times, so they also know what a big deal it is when you experience and share small victories in those areas.
Not unlike the leper who came back to thank Jesus (Luke 17:11-19), can we expend the time and energy to thank God, to recognize healing that’s taken place–and even do it together?
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Janel Breitenstein is an author, freelance writer, and speaker, as well as the editor for Go. Serve. Love. After five and a half years in East Africa, her family of six has returned to Colorado, where they continue to work on behalf of the poor with Engineering Ministries International. Janel also frequently writes and speaks to global women through Thrive Ministry.
Her book, Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills to Write on Your Kids’ Hearts (Harvest House) released October 2021. You can find her—“The Awkward Mom”—having uncomfortable, important conversations at JanelBreitenstein.com, and on Instagram @janelbreit.