Moving to a culture so dramatically different from the only culture I had ever known was a huge challenge. My preparation for this drastic change was limited to the wise advice of a seasoned missionary: “Be ready to learn from those to whom you are sent.” As every day dawned in my new world, I pondered her words, especially in the face of many trials – 99% of which were totally unexpected.

As I set out to learn from my hard-working, innovative neighbors, I gained a whole new perspective on my own trials. These women began their day by gathering sticks, often walking for miles in the early morning in order to collect enough sticks to build a fire in the evening. Then, using a special basket, they sifted their meager ration of grain. What you have here is a woman who has been working all day long, gathering sticks and sifting grain before she can even begin to mix the dough and cook it for the family meal. Sifting is only one part.

I could especially relate to the sifting part of the process, shaking the basket of grain and tossing it up so the wind could blow away the chaff. I felt that in this same manner, I was being sifted as I acclimated to this new culture. Bible stories I had heard all my life came to mind, especially Jesus’ discussion with Simon Peter: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat.” (Luke 22:31, Legacy Standard Bible)

Recently a dear friend of ours fell and hurt himself badly. Besides the cuts, breaks, and bruises, he has endured numerous doctor visits in order to restore his body. Even now, he has several weeks to go before he regains his health. His woes in recovery are his world. Comparatively, the whole world of the woman I observed was toiling day in and day out to provide nourishment for her family.

Jesus next words to Peter in Luke 22 were, “But I have prayed earnestly for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, once you have returned, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22: 32, Legacy Standard Bible)

In the midst of a trial, we often forget that Jesus is already a step ahead, praying earnestly on our behalf, even before “being sifted like wheat.” His prayer is that “your faith may not fail” when you go through the trial. Jesus also says, “once you have returned,” which should encourage us. Because of our relationship with Jesus, there is a way THROUGH the trial!

But even getting through the trial is not the end result, nor should it be the final step in the process. Jesus adds that when we “return,” “strengthen your brothers.” He wants us individually to stand strong through the trial so that at the end of the day, once we have returned to health, we are in a better position to minister to others. In other words, the trial has a greater purpose: to make us more like Jesus.

My experience in a foreign culture, watching women work so hard just to feed their families, gave me a new perspective on the “sifting” which is only part of my trials. More important is the end result of the process – being strengthened so I can stand firm and grow in my faith in Christ. As I grow in Jesus, I will in turn be prepared to help others grow in their faith resulting in bringing God all the glory.