Song in the Desert–Missionaries and Music

Our family attended the 11am Modern Worship Service this last Sunday, July 10. Our oldest son was the scripture reader, and with all of our kids middle and high school ages, that’s the place to be on Sunday mornings. It was a beautiful, moving service, full of worship. I love both worship styles at Bellevue Presbyterian Church, and very much recommend that everyone check out both Modern and Sanctuary worship this summer. Everyone involved is giving their best to our Father in praise, and I think it gives us a good idea of what to expect in heaven.

This Sunday, I didn’t bother to look at the order of worship, for some reason, so I was not prepared when Desert Song, a Hillsong United song started up. Back in 2008, when I first heard this song, we were still worshipping with the Wamena International Fellowship in Wamena, Indonesia. We were selling off all our worldly goods and preparing to move back to America after four years on the mission field with MAF. My heart was not ready to leave that place, though it was clear that God was sending us home.

It was the most heartbreaking time of my life. If you look at it on a map, Wamena is in the middle of the island of New Guinea, just North of Australia. But as the airplane flies, it’s much farther. Our usual flight route was Seattle>Taipei>Singapore>Jakarta>Bali>Jayapura (on the coast)>Wamena (in the highlands). That’s three days (THREE!) of flying. Google maps won’t even plot if for me. So when we were leaving there, I knew that if I ever went back, it was going to be a long, long distance into the future. I was heartbroken. All the friends I had made, the Indonesian ones, whom I would likely never see again. The Dutch, Swiss, New Zealander, Irish friends, whom I would likely never see again. And the American/Canadian friends, who might come to Seattle on furlough, but still, it would be a long time before I would get to see them again. And the culture, which I had come to love and understand. Not to mention the sense of failure that Ted and I, who had planned to be lifetime missionaries, felt at having our expected career—our calling–cut short. It was a confusing, emotionally, sad time for our whole family. God knew what was going on, but I often felt that I was wandering in the dark.

Then, we began to sing this song in worship:

This is my prayer in the desert
When all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides

This is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold

My "Produce Department"
My “Produce Department”

So refine me, Lord, through the flame

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

This is my prayer in the battle
When triumph is still on its way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I’ll stand

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
The seed I’ve received I will sow

And I was heartbroken. I fell into this song and stayed there. For nearly a year I cried my way through this song. I was so grateful that when I returned to worship at BePres and the Modern Worship band started playing it. The words and music were my rock in the massive tumult of my soul.

I clung to the idea that through Jesus, I had the victory. That whatever the season of life, that I could praise God. I could have access to the certainty that God knew me, God cared for me, and that, as my desire was for his glory, I would know joy again.
So this last Sunday, as we gave God glory in this song once more, I wept, as I always have with this song. But eight years later, I am, by God’s grace, in a place of greater understanding of God’s heart for hurting people. For people who believe that God has one plan, but then he shows them a new, not always welcome plan. God loves those who serve him with their lives. God’s reasons for bringing us back were not clear to us for a very long time after our return. But we have a better idea of what God was doing then, now.

Missionaries who leave the field have a hard road to travel, almost always, back to whole life in their country of origin. My story, and the influence of the Desert Song in my journey back to wholeness in Christ, is only one of many. It is my hope that we would all stand in prayer with the missionaries in our church, and in our lives, no matter where they are in their mission journey. Pray that God would give our missionaries the strength to give him praise in every circumstance, as Job did when he said “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” –Job 2.10

God is for us, in every trial, in every joy, in every situation, God is for us. He is forming us to be more like his son, Jesus, which is our ultimate good. If we can rest in that truth, then we can indeed sing:

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

4 thoughts on “Song in the Desert–Missionaries and Music

  1. Wonderful words, Nan. Thank you for sharing and always pointing to Christ who is in control of everything. All praise to Him.

    1. Thank you, Wendi & Jean. Your comments mean a lot to me. What a blessing you both are to everyone in your circle.

  2. Dear Nan, thank you so much for sharing your heart–broken and being restored–in this beautiful testimony! You are a light, a witness, to God’s faithfulness and continuing presence.

  3. Thank you, Nan. This is beautifully written and shared, Knowing you, your story creates a bridge that helps me understand a little more about the hearts, heartbreaks, and the way God restores those who serve as missionaries….and those who serve at ‘home.’ Jean McAllister’s story is another bridge.
    Thankful…

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