What is “Success”?

Enjoy this story from one of our EQUIP participants. “Hi [insert female Arabic name here]! Do you have plans for Thanksgiving Day? We are making an all-halal dinner, and I would love for you and your family to come! Are you available?” My sweet Arab friends continue to astound me with how many ways they can politely skirt around questions and invites without ever actually saying “no.” I read over their messages a few times before seeing that all six people that I’d invited to dinner declined. I closed my messages, feeling frustrated and defeated. What am I doing here? Will I ever be able to access this group and have space to sow gospel seed? Despite learning a wide variety of ministry tools and praying inordinate amounts, the chasm between me and Arabs didn’t seem to be narrowing. Many of my new friends don’t have regular social interaction with much of anyone outside their family circles. If they do, it’s typically regulated by their husbands. The spiritual conversations I am able to have often fall on spiritually deaf ears, or ears that simply don’t comprehend English. I often stumble over my words as I share stories with Muslim friends, and am often left without any words at all as they express sheer contentment with their religion and prophet. At the end of the day, I am empty-handed and socially exhausted. Feelings of failure rush in. What have I actually done? This is where we go wrong. As Westerners, we want measurable results for the measurable amount of work we put in. We think hours put in and contacts made will determine whether we see fruit. We presume that our cultural understanding of “working hard” will make us effective laborers amongst the harvest. I imagine God, in all love and grace, chuckling at our efforts to put His plans for the nations into an Excel spreadsheet. Upon coming to New York, I had lofty dreams of becoming a proficient cross-cultural worker in ten months time. I thought I would launch overseas knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. But instead, at the halfway point, my idols of ministry proficiency and measurable success are shattered on the floor. I am left utterly dependent on the Father for it all. In my self-inflicted feelings of failure, the Spirit gently reminds me that “success” (whatever that may actually mean) is not the finish line. I cannot wait around in bitterness for the tangible results of church planting to fulfill me – there is nothing I can do that will increase God’s love and approval of me. “Success” has already arrived, in the form of praising God amongst the nations and being faithful to bless the people He puts before me. With this reminder sitting fresh in my heart, I walked into a pizza place a few days ago and met eyes with a veiled woman sitting in the booth nearest the window. She was delighted when I greeted her in Arabic, and instantly asked for my phone number so we could talk more. “Wait, you never told me your name!” She smiled and said, “My name is Feiyaz*. It means ‘success’ in Arabic.”

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