No Obstacle too Great :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

No Obstacle too Great

Rachel Steffensmeier
2:48 read

On March 19, 2020, I sat in a comfortable leather chair at the Taiwan airport waiting for my international flight that would take me back to the States to start deputation. Just two weeks before, COVID-19 had hit the Philippines, prompting one of the pandemic’s longest lockdowns. I opened my Tagalog children’s Bible story book, and as I read about Jacob’s dream, I was struck by God’s promise to be with him and to bring him back to the land he was leaving behind. Surely God would also be with me and could bring me back to the Philippines in His time.

In a sense I was heading “home,” but after four years in the Philippines, I felt more like I had just left home to go to a place where I no longer felt fully comfortable. Just as I was challenged to follow Abraham’s example to step out by faith into the unknown when I first went to the Philippines, I would need the same faith to return temporarily to my passport country. Deputation seemed like an obstacle that required me to hit the pause button on my ministry for an indefinite length of time.

I braced myself for some of the challenges that I anticipated—driving tens of thousands of miles alone and speaking in front of hundreds of strangers in church after church. Just a few years before, these things alone might have made me reconsider my calling to be a missionary. However, had I known all the unexpected obstacles that awaited me on my deputation path, I certainly would have been even more intimidated.

On my first day back in the States, I awoke to the news that lockdowns were going into effect. It seemed there could hardly be a worse time for deputation. How could I share my burden for the Philippines when churches were meeting online and in survival mode? How would I ever raise support when many churches were struggling financially? Deputation is challenging enough under normal circumstances but it seemed nearly impossible during a pandemic and its aftermath. Why did God perfectly coincide the start of my deputation with a pandemic? COVID-19 certainly didn’t catch Him by surprise, and He was preparing to show His power in a greater way because of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

As churches began to open, I slowly scheduled meetings. I was often discouraged when I heard the response, “I’m sorry, but we’re not able to schedule missionaries right now because our church is struggling due to the pandemic.” I had to continually remind myself to trust God even in a year of drought (Jeremiah 17:7-8). Early in my deputation journey, I read Carolyn Searls’ moving account The Crash of the Dragonfly about God’s working in another part of the Philippines. The following statement resonated with my situation:

“When God opens a door, no man can shut it, but getting through that door takes God’s faithfulness and man’s willingness to trust Him through tremendous roadblocks.”

Over and over during my two-year deputation, I saw God’s faithfulness opening doors and overcoming each obstacle.  

One recurring challenge of my deputation was flat tires. Whether they happened in -14°F weather at the beginning of a long trip or in a tiny town in rural Pennsylvania, the Lord showed His watchful care for this clueless woman by always placing me in just the right location and quickly sending kind people to assist me.

Despite my rapidly increasing odometer readings, it seemed that I wasn’t making tangible progress towards my goal. At other times I was in awe over the doors that God clearly opened upon which I had never even knocked and over the many unexpected ways He provided. As my support started to increase, I began to wonder if I would face another problem. Would I reach full support before the Philippines lifted their unending lockdown and opened to foreigners?

Finally, after 1.5 years of deputation, my support was over 90%, the Philippines opened, and I was getting anxious to make plans to get back to the field for the next school year. The finish line was in sight, but for a while it didn’t seem to be getting any closer. I was running out of meetings and didn’t know if I needed to extend my deputation or if I should buy a plane ticket. The very week that I especially cried out to the Lord for clear direction, I received a call informing me of new support that suddenly put me at 100%! The Lord truly provided in due time (see Psalm 145:15.)

Just when it seemed like everything was falling into place for my return, a co-worker was unable to enter the Philippines due to unexpected problems. Would the same thing happen to me? If the Lord wanted me back in the country, He would overcome even this final potential obstacle. When I at last stepped into the familiar humid, polluted Manila air, I felt like I was dreaming. God had proven that truly no obstacle is too great for Him.