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Finding My Joy In The Jungle

By Angie Marco


“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Psalm 37:4

I have been a missionary wife in the Philippines for nine years. I have had two babies in a foreign country. I have learned to live with huge lizards, and I kill at least one giant spider a day. My husband and I have teamed up with 2x4s in hand to catch and get rid of rats that have tried to take over our kitchen!

I guess what I am trying to prove is that I consider myself to be pretty brave. I live in the jungle! There is not much that frightens me any more other than the occasional, giant, flying cockroach. Those still get me every time! But every now and then, I start thinking of all those things that I can not control. That is when it all goes downhill.

I am not sure if you are like me, but when this happens, all the “what if” scenarios begin to flood my mind. Fear of the unknown and worry kick in. Many times these thoughts try to take control of my peace and joy. If I allow it, it will take control of my spirit.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

How can fear or worry have so much control over my spirit? The devil is very smart, and he knows that our joy is valuable. He will do everything in his power to take it from us!

Serving in the Philippines has not always been easy. I believe all we have experienced has increased our faith in God. Our family came here with very little support therefore during our first four years on the field. We learned to go without some of the things we now consider luxuries. Air conditioning, hot water, washer, dryer and a vehicle- all those things that we sometimes take for granted.

I am going to be honest. There were many times when I just wanted to cry and complain and just not have a good attitude at all. As a wife and a mother, many times my biggest question was, “Are we going to make it this week?” I was letting fear of the unknown takeover my joy and fill me with worry.

I had to learn to trust that God would provide! When you allow God to take control of your life, you will be able to see Him come through for you every single time. God has provided for every one of our needs right on time-every single time! I have seen God provide for our family in the most amazing ways and the joy that comes from knowing that God did that for me is incomparable.

One of the worst things we can do that can also very quickly take our joy is compare ourselves to others. During our first years on the field, I would often compare myself to other missionary wives who could afford to have the beautiful house, the washer, the dryer, the personal vehicle, and their thriving ministry. I always thought, “Wow! They have it all together!” I felt I could not be the perfect missionary wife, mother, housekeeper, and ministry worker.

It was something that could have potentially made me very bitter. I really had to stop myself! It was something that was taking all of my joy. Constantly thinking about and dwelling on my fears and worries and everything we needed to make life easier was making me forget why we were here in the first place.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” Isaiah 61:1

I started looking around me; there was so much more that I was missing. Instead of focusing on how hard I thought I had it, I started to look at the people that started attending our church services and their needs. The children who would come to our gate, even on days we didn’t have church just because they wanted to be around our family. I started falling in love with every single one of them!

“Mine eye affecteth mine heart...” Lamentations 3:51

We started to invest our time and our money-the little we did have-to those around us in need. Going out soul-winning and visiting some of our church people opened my eyes to a much deeper need.

It changed me. It changed my way of thinking. Through the years I have learned that when you start thinking of others and their needs, your own needs become very small and sometimes insignificant. Being someone else’s answer to prayer brings a very special kind of joy. Serving the people around me made me realize how blessed we truly are.

I decided that wherever God wanted us to be, I would love that place and make the very best of it. I decided I would not let my circumstances steal my joy. Like I mentioned before, the devil knows our joy is very valuable. He will do everything in his power to take that from us.

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” 1 Corinthians 6:19

The devil will lie to you and make you believe your joy is not worth anything. Do not fall for it! Joy is something we have to hold on to- guard and protect. Hold fast to it.

“But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” Hebrews 3:6

During those first years, our family went through some hard times, and some days it was hard to have a joyful spirit. Things were very tight, but I did not want to be the reason why we could not make it on the mission field. I did not want to discourage my husband because of my lack of faith and trust in God. I did not want to come to him with all my complaining. I wanted to be his biggest cheerleader! I knew I had to start talking to God more than ever.

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Instead of whining and complaining while washing clothes by hand, I started telling the Lord what was on my heart and mind.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with Thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6

That is when He became so much more to me. He is my joy!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

When we have Him, we have it all. He is more than enough! Difficult circumstances in life help grow our love, joy, peace, faith, meekness, and temperance.

I started thanking God for all the little things that brought me joy - simple little things that I was taking for granted. We did not have air conditioning, but we had an electric fan to cool us down on those scorching hot days. I always made sure to thank him every night for running water. There were days when we did not have running water. Power outages are very common here in the Philippines so it has become a thing for our family to say “Thank you Lord!” after power was restored. Instead of focusing on the bad things, we decided to be grateful and find joy in the little things. Circumstances may not always be good but we can find joy in knowing that God is good to us always.

My prayer was that the Lord would help me to be what my husband and my family needed me to be. They are my ministry. I prayed that our family could be a blessing to the people around us. I chose to do the best I could with the resources we had and made the very best of it. Instead of complaining about the things we did not have, I decided to love and appreciate the little things we did have. Why would the Lord bless me with more if I did not appreciate the little I did have. He knew my heart and He knew our need. When you change your perspective and your outlook and you start thinking of others and how you can be an answer to prayer for someone else, then you understand what real joy is all about.

“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name…” Hebrews 6:10

After nine years on the mission field, God has provided the finances to be able to live in a beautiful little house with air conditioning where I feel spoiled to be able to have a washer and a dryer. We now have our own vehicle which makes life so much easier. We do not have to ride a motorcycle with a sidecar everywhere, which can be quite the challenge when you have the whole family plus groceries. Another huge blessing is the fact that we can enjoy hot showers now. I know that too many people, these things are not a big deal but to me, these things are huge hugs from God. These are blessings! These are the things my heart desired.

“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Psalm 37:4

It has been amazing to see God’s hand in our life and ministry here in the Philippines. There is joy in serving Jesus; it is not just a cliché. There is joy in serving others. It is sad that too many people waste their time looking for joy in empty places. If we could all just look to Jesus, we would find joy!


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