In a year of uncertainty, illness, financial instability, and travel restrictions, many of us have become aware of the difficulties which missionaries face. Many missionaries have found themselves with no choice but to return home. Some who were preparing to “go” have been unable to do so. How frustrating this must be! These difficulties, though now more widely acknowledged, are not a new occurrence. Missionaries have been encountering barriers to the spread of the Gospel for centuries. In the mid-late 1900s, Southeast Asia was plagued with illness, war, and genocide. This violence left the region inaccessible for Christian missionaries.
However, God was working in a Minneapolis high school to bring the Gospel to Cambodia. During this time, the US saw an influx of Southeast Asian refugees fleeing their war-torn homes. As Jean made friends with the new students, she faced persecution from her classmates. During the course of her study at university, she began to feel a calling to serve in Southeast Asia among people groups with whom she had become familiar. There was only one problem: years of genocide and violence had caused the region to remain closed to outsiders. Unmoved by discouragement, Jean began to pray that God would use her in her local context. The next day she was invited to participate in an outreach to foreign exchange students who happened to be from the same region.
This started a journey for her reaching out to Cambodians locally when she wasn’t able to actually travel or live in Cambodia full time. Eventually, she had the opportunity to work for 16 years in Cambodia.
How amazing that we can rejoice that God continues to work in our discouragement!