God Has Not Given Us a Spirit of Fear

God has given us a spirit of power. “No guilt in life, no fear in death – this is the power of Christ in me.”

Our two-year-old likes to listen to music on YouTube. She’ll often come up to us and request a certain song “on the TV” because she enjoys watching the video associated with the music. One children’s song that she listens to puts these lyrics to a catchy tune: “Walking in the jungle, walking in the jungle; I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid.” Although the region in Togo where our hospital operates isn’t full-on jungle, it is a rainforest setting. Whenever this children’s song plays (and I will have it stuck in my head for days after), I remember a lot of our time in “the jungle.” We were sometimes confronted with things that might have given us cause to fear, but we knew and chose to believe that any anxiety we experienced was not something God had given to us.

As natural and understandable as our fears were, they came from something other than the Lord. We were confronted with the prospect of viral hemorrhagic fever in West Africa, not to mention malaria and Typhoid fever. The possibility of civil or governmental unrest were constant. Our financial situation as missionaries wasn’t necessarily stable. The capital city where we did our grocery shopping wasn’t considered the safest place in the world. We were concerned about venomous snakes both indoors and out. All of these things were realities whether we lived in fear or not, and if we allowed ourselves to imagine that any of that was truly in our hands we would become afraid. When we look at ourselves and our ability to control the situation, we see how weak we are - how small we are compared to the problem. Yet it’s by God’s own power that we are able to function and even thrive without fear. He is the one big enough to handle these big problems “according to His riches and glory.”

More than feeling secure in life, ultimately, God’s children should not even remotely fear death itself. Each of us is appointed a time to die. It seems that some good Christian people fall into the same pattern of fear to which the world around them naturally falls prey. The world, “sons of wrath,” have every reason to fear death, but the spirit of power which sons of God have been given provides a confidence in life that shows no fear of death. Why? Because “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

What do we have to look forward to in eternity? Sometimes my imagination is vivid. Let me paint a picture. I imagine opening my eyes and truly seeing for the first time – there is light everywhere. The burden and weight of fleshly pain and any care of the world is forgotten. The host of angels who rejoiced at my repentance are present, rejoicing still and worshiping the Lamb. There is a “cloud of witnesses” to greet me. Famous figures from the Bible and history who influenced my faith, those who directly impacted my faith, and those whose faith I may have impacted stand in radiant mass. Family and loved ones who have already entered eternity embrace me with overwhelming joy before turning and pointing further up and further in, pointing at the great source of light, the source of palpable lovingkindness. If you think there are no tears in God’s presence, I’ll remind you that “He will wipe away every tear,” and my eyes are full of joyful tears. To finally greet my King and brother and to hear “well done, good and faithful servant.” That is my greatest joy and aspiration. It is the power of this kind of hope that destroys fear.

God has given us a spirit of love. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.”

Yes, to die is gain, but to live is Christ. When Paul wrote these words to the Philippians he was debating with himself whether or not to willingly surrender to what he wanted (eternity) or to hope to live a while longer in order to serve the church, to serve the Lord here on earth. He ultimately communicates his desire to live as long as he is able in order to promote Christ and build the church. This is something so unique to God’s children, that we can seek to lovingly serve friends, strangers, and enemies despite opposition, difficulty, and disaster, and we’re able to do this without fear because of the power of God and the spirit of love which He has given us.

Love is another remedy for fear. Imagine a father rushing into a burning building to save his small child. True love trumps fear. As children of God we grow and mature in our faith, the process of sanctification, to a point where we do actually love other people. We know from Ephesians 2:10 that God has prepared good works for us in order that we can carry out those works. This love that we have, a desire to serve others in humility, is made useful when it helps us to overcome fear so that we can act in obedience in our service to others. This Christian mercy in the face of fear is what brought about medicine and hospitals as we know them. The love which God has given us allows us to overcome fear in order to serve others and accomplish God-honoring work here on earth. This is the reason my family and I are able to serve in a part of the world which may be considered dangerous by some. It’s the reason Christians at home and abroad are able to go out and serve their brothers and sisters, their communities, or the vulnerable despite fear of plague or pestilence. Love overcomes fear.

God has given us a sound mind. “Be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Soundness of mind in this particular passage is also translated as self-control. This is a two-edged sword when it comes to countering fear. Consider a current predicament – either personal or global. There is probably something in your life which might cause you to be afraid or anxious. Most likely this won’t be a problem forever, but there will be something else to occupy your mind soon enough. Those who do not practice self-control give in to fear with abandon; they are controlled by fear. God has given His children the ability to stop and think and practice wisdom. God has given us the option to turn our thoughts and prayers toward Him. Isaiah 26:3 states “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.” We have found this to be true when tempted to fear. Whether practicing medicine in West Africa or walking with our twelve year old daughter while she battles cancer, we have had the opportunity to turn our attention toward the God of peace. You can as well.

The other side of the sound mind coin is that we temper our enthusiasm. Christians have been given a spirit of power and love and we are therefore capable of overcoming any fear, even fear of death. That does not mean that we have license to be careless. Overcoming a fear of heights does not mean we believe we can fly. In my medical opinion, not every viral outbreak is as concerning as news outlets or the masses make things seem. Yet, that does not mean that we don’t practice caution on some level. In Togo, our hospital had a plan in place for the event of managing Ebola or Lassa Fever. Missionaries everywhere have evacuation plans in case of civil unrest or medical emergencies. Regarding our daughter’s cancer, we choose not to fear but continue to steadily seek what treatments are available. God’s children are given the means to overcome fear, the motivation to act in the face of difficulty, and the wisdom to know when action is necessary. A sound mind helps us discern hysteria from danger but also allows us to understand when we can lovingly take action in the midst of difficult or dangerous situations.

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Tim 1:7

One last reminder. In Philippians 4 Paul entreats the reader to not be anxious and then gives some more “antidotes” to anxiety: prayer and thanksgiving. He tells us to make our requests known to God, but then says nothing about having those specific needs met. Rather, he tells us that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Not that God does not answer prayer: we continue to pray for our daughter’s healing. Yet, healing isn’t a guarantee – peace is. I encourage you to look to Christ today no matter what you might be facing.

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Christian parents, you are tasked with mission work

My wife was raised on the mission field as a missionary kid, an “MK” as they are known. She felt the Lord calling her to a life of service in missions when she was ten years old. Likewise, I was only seven when I felt the Lord calling me to medical missions one day. Both my wife and I loved learning about missionaries when we were children. Most of our heroes were, in fact, missionaries. Names like Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, Nate Saint, Adoniram Judson, and Gladys Aylward were names well known to us from childhood. Certainly, these were important kingdom workers. Having been called to mission work ourselves, we had likely idealized the work and lives of these brothers and sisters. Perhaps you have as well.

While working toward our goals and eventually on the foreign field, we quickly came to realize that “the mission” isn’t just given to a select few among the body of Christ. Sure, each member has different abilities and functions, but every one of God’s children has been given a gift worthy of sharing. Not only should we as Christians share the gospel simply because it is worthy, but we also should do so because Christ commanded us to “make disciples” (Mat 28:19). Some are called to take that work to “all nations.” While some are indeed called to send those whom we have labeled as missionaries, no believer in Jesus Christ is called to withhold the good news. None are exempt from the imperative to make disciples.

Another thing we learned in long-term mission work was that living and working overseas, as exotic as it may sound, is in many ways just living and working. Things which seemed so strange, cultural differences for example, grew familiar. While walking to the mission hospital some mornings, I would marvel at the mundanity of life even in the midst of foreign ministry. Getting up in the morning still was a chore. We still brushed our teeth and had bills to pay. We walked the same earth under the same sun. I found that I still had to be intentional about ministry in the midst of life and work: sharing Jesus with the world didn’t become automatically easier just because we were in a foreign land. One part of life which also continued as normal was the raising of our children.

We moved overseas with four children, had a fifth on the mission field, and have since been joined by number six. Even before moving overseas, we had recognized one of the greatest ministries that God had given us: our children. Raising a family can seem like one of the everyday things that just happens while we accomplish other great things in life. Certainly, a family can be raised passively. Most parents are probably, at least sometimes, guilty of simply getting by rather than focusing on the actual task of raising children.

My wife and I have become more convinced than ever that, during these few precious years that we have with them, one of our primary ministries is to our children. This does not diminish the other work that we have, any more than it does for anybody else. Remember, each believer in Jesus has the responsibility to make disciples. What a joy and a privilege for my wife and myself to have been given six children to whom we can teach Jesus Christ. Eighteen years of discipleship is no small thing! As parents, we have such an opportunity, such a ripe mission field. This is true no matter where the Lord has placed us. While we are called to be ambassadors to the world, what better place to start than with the family God has provided. I encourage anyone who still has children at home to make every effort to make their own children their primary mission field.

Scripture supports the teaching of God’s word to our children. Deuteronomy 11:18-19 highlights the importance of “laying” or “fixing” God’s word in our own hearts and then teaching it to our children. Most of us are familiar with Proverbs 22:6: “train up a child in the way he should go.” Paul also charges fathers in Ephesians 6:4 with discipline and instructing children in the Lord. These passages are not describing a passive process of cohabitation and provision of food. This, like any other ministry, is a true spiritual battle, and our children are no small heavenly conflict. If you want to know what spiritual battle feels like, it’s choosing to do things that take energy when you are tired. It’s pushing yourself to repeat chores which are mundane. You fight by forcing yourself to talk about things which are difficult to people who do not want to listen.

More than that, any person in ministry must tend to their own spiritual nourishment and growth. Paul implores Timothy to present himself before God as approved and as a worker who needn’t be ashamed but rightly handles the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). This is also a spiritual battle to be undertaken with seriousness. Fathers, I entreat you to look to your spiritual growth, toiling and struggling with all of Christ’s own energy (Col 1:29). Each of you love your own wife as you love yourself by leading in discipleship (Eph 5:28-29). Mothers and fathers, fix God’s word in your hearts and teach it to your children (Deut 11:18-19). Make this spiritual battle a priority. Take the time to have regular family devotions and discipline your children in the Lord. If you are God’s children, you are ambassadors to the unsaved; and if you are parents, you are missionaries to your own children.

Obedience in Spite of the Obstacle

When our daughter Arwen, then 10, was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma nearly two years ago, there was no question that we would need to transition from the mission field to pursue treatment. The news was devastating for our family. We were facing the real prospect of losing a child, and Arwen was forced to come to terms with her mortality much sooner than many people. More than that, the entire family was displaced from what we thought of as home and displaced from our mission, our life’s work.

What may be less obvious than our need to return from the field is our determination to go back. Both my wife and I were called to missions work as children, and we take the call to go and make disciples very seriously. The undercurrent of our lives has always been to serve in obedience to that call. Even in the first few days of our family crisis some of our thoughts were of how and when the Lord would permit us to return to the work He has provided for us – it was not really a question of “if.”

Clearly, the God of heaven knew of our detour and had been preparing us for that and for a type of ministry in the US rather than overseas. We have sought to be gracious in carrying out the tasks that we have found designed for us over the past couple years: the Lord has prepared kingdom work for each of His children at various times and in many places, and it’s not always what we expect it to be. We praise God for the fruit we’ve seen in our lives and for the small ways in which He has used us to bless others. Every season in life is more than a time of growth and preparation for future work that God has for us; He is also revealing Himself to us and preparing us for eternity with Him. Part of the process of our sanctification is learning about joyful obedience.

In raising our children we have sought to instill the desire for obedience to God’s word. Obedience to God is something that we learn to practice daily. We must shun sin and evil, but also look for opportunities to advance the kingdom of God. This too is a daily activity! It incorporates encouraging the church and sharing the good news of what Jesus has done for us with those who do not know Him. Yet, obedience isn’t always easy. Our physical reality is eclipsed by an actual spiritual existence – and there is constant warfare in that plain. All that appears ordinary, every experience or situation, is used to wage war in the spiritual places.

Arwen’s cancer diagnosis is no different. I can tell you with all certainty that every member of this family has faced days of discouragement, doubt, and temptation because of our present situation. We are tempted to doubt the absolute sovereignty of God. We are temped to believe that we deserve a miracle according to our terms. We’ve had days of giving in to despondency, when we know that the joy of the Lord is our strength. I know the enemy wishes to see God’s children crushed and their faith destroyed. Yet, we continue to equip the full armor of God and fight with what tools we have been given. God’s word is our source of truth, and our family stands stronger in our faith than ever thanks to the trial we have faced.

Failing in our spiritual destruction, what more could the enemy desire? To deter the growth of Christ’s church. Ours is only one of hundreds of situations that might keep a family from returning to the mission field. I’m not calling out any who have left and cannot return – there truly is work for God’s children in every corner of the world. For our family, however, we still feel called to missions in Africa despite the obstacle placed before us. We have persisted through the course of all prescribed cancer treatments, and yet the malignancy remains unchanged. We recognize that, according to the ways of man, we might not be expected to continue to pursue mission work and would easily be excused if we chose to remain. Our calling, however, and our path leads us back to our work in Africa.

Arwen herself has told us that it is her desire to return to Togo. She would rather die on the mission field, if that be God’s will. Of course, we have not lost our hope: our hope is sure because it is placed in Christ. We continue to ask the Lord for Arwen’s healing or that He would show us how else to treat her cancer. Beyond that, our family’s desire is to step out in faith and return to Togo. We are all the more excited to tell others about our God who has given us His grace, joy, peace, and love during the course of our own small tribulation. Indeed, He is real and we are witnesses of His mercy and faithfulness. What a joy to share the hope we have in Christ, He who conquered death!

What obstacles are you facing today? Our hope is that in the midst of those, you also are able to look to Christ and find hope. Look for the ways in which He is teaching you. Search out those whom you can encourage by sharing your experiences. Remember that we are in a battle, so put on your armor, and stand firm. Obedience may not always look the way we expect it to, but don’t let any obstacle keep you from obeying God’s call on your life. All that we have here and now is temporary – invest rather in eternity.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”
2 Corinthians 4:7-9
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An October Update: Arwen and Fundraising

It's been three months since baby Kalmar was born, and the family is finding a routine again as we head into the new (home)school year. Kalmar has been a happy baby and a blessing to the family. Because his arrival was in July, many summer activities were delayed due to pregnancy, expectation for delivery, and recovery. Our family did find time to enjoy some of the lingering summer days in Michigan with a mini vacation on Mackinac Island and then a brief camping trip in Northern Michigan.

As we have returned to some normal routine, we are focusing more closely on our fundraising efforts for our eventual return to Togo. Currently, our monthly support income is at 17% of our goal, and we are seeking brothers and sisters in Christ who would partner with us by giving monthly on a long-term basis. We invite you to consider joining our ministry in this way!

Touring the colorful interior of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

As you may know, Arwen was on an experimental treatment for several months to see if that might have any effect on her cancer. Ultimately, it proved ineffective and Arwen was switched to another study. However, the new study program did not turn out to be taking new patients, so Arwen was left without any treatment. She has been on a "maintenance" medication while her doctors look for another experimental treatment that she might try.

Overall, Arwen has been fairly well, though tired often and prone to joint and body pain due to the maintenance medication. She, like the rest of the family, has continued to grow in her walk with the Lord. In fact, Arwen, Caspian, and Elora were all baptized in early September! We were able to celebrate that with our church family in Hillsdale, Michigan.

In mid-September we had the opportunity to share our testimony in a breakout session at Prescription for Renewal in Orlando. We thank all those who ministered to us there and those who expressed interest in possibly supporting our ministry. Later in September, we were able to share again at Grace Covenant Church in Cincinnati. We are thankful to the church for the chance to fellowship and for their tender encouragement and support for our family. If you wish to see that sermon, you can watch it here.

We hope to share our testimony and plans for ministry with more churches or groups. If you would like us to speak at your church, feel free to introduce us to your pastor! We're also happy to attend small groups or mission conferences.

Another request that we have is for some of you to consider joining our prayer support team. All of your prayers are welcome and appreciated! Yet, we plan to have a core group of believers who are dedicated to praying for our family and ministry on a daily basis. This group would receive more specific prayer requests more often. If you are interested in supporting us in this way, or if you want more information about having us come to speak at a church or group, simply email us at

Baptism of Arwen, Caspian, and Elora
And let us not grow weary of doing good,
for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

Missionary Doctor: As We Move Forward

Dear friends and prayer partners,
We hope that as you read this you are well and growing in the grace so freely offered by God through Jesus Christ. For some of you, this may be the first time you’ve heard about our ministry, but many of you are rather familiar with our story and our ministry, so some of this blog’s contents may already be quite well-known to you.
We are the Mallay family, missionaries to Togo, West Africa. I, Seth, am a medical doctor who was called to medical missions as a child. My wife, Rebecca, was raised on the mission field and also felt called to missions as a child. We have six children under the age of thirteen, one of whom was born in Africa. A few years ago, we were commissioned by Samaritan’s Purse to work as missionaries at a hospital in Togo for two years. At the end of 2015, we began our missionary assignment by moving to France for language acquisition. After a year of study there, we relocated at the end of 2016 to the small village of Tsiko, Togo, where we lived and worked in medical ministry for over a year.
We certainly saw fruit from our labors, both physical and spiritual. As we were preparing to announce our decision to return to Togo as full-time missionaries after completing our two years, we discovered a tumor in the abdomen of our oldest child, our daughter Arwen. This required a hasty retreat to the U.S., where Arwen was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma. Since January of 2018, we’ve been living in Michigan and going through various steps of treatment in hopes of curing her cancer.
Ultimately, Arwen’s cancer did not respond to any form of standard treatment. She is currently undergoing an experimental treatment, which has also failed to show any sign of effect so far. Despite this, we have continued to place our hope in Christ and to trust in God’s perfect plan. Trusting also in God’s timing, our ministry in Togo has been necessarily deferred. However, in March of 2019, Rebecca and I were officially appointed as missionaries to Togo with the mission ABWE.
Some have asked us why we changed missions from Samaritan’s Purse to ABWE. The answer, at its simplest, is that this change was always part of the plan. Samaritan’s Purse places doctors in various mission hospitals for two-year periods with the desire that those doctors will later continue working in those hospitals as missionaries for the various mission boards that run the hospitals. ABWE, Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, is the mission that owns and operates the hospital in Togo.
Others have asked why we would go with a Baptist organization even though we aren’t actually Baptists. Our sending church is the Hillsdale United Brethren Church, in Hillsdale Michigan. Many of the missionaries working with ABWE are Baptists, but many of them are not. The organization is made up of brothers and sisters in Christ who have the common desire to see Christ shared with every nation. Our own denomination has a strong tradition of unity between all those who are brethren in Christ. If you are interested in reading more about ABWE, you can visit their website.
We are excited to be working with ABWE and eager to return to the work in Togo. The passion for missions that God has given us hasn’t changed. There have been some major life detours, but that has not discouraged us from desiring to be obedient in carrying out the task that has been accorded to us.
There are several matters to be undertaken before we will be free to return to Togo. First, concerning Arwen’s health: We continue to pray for a miracle, but we do not know what God has in store for us. If treatments begin to show signs that they are working, we would likely remain in the U.S. until Arwen was in remission and not in need of frequent check-ups. If treatments continue to fail, any additional treatment decisions are left to Arwen because it’s all experimental at this point. Based on what Arwen has told us, this experimental treatment may be the last. This could change depending on what is presented to her in the future, but most recently she tends to lean toward no further treatment. She has indicated that if treatment is discontinued, her desire would be to return to Togo for whatever remaining time God gives her on this earth, and if she were to die, she would like to be buried in Togo. That last sentence was not easy to write.
The other barriers to returning include various classes and learning objectives given to us by ABWE, which shouldn’t be too difficult, and meeting our fundraising requirements. ABWE has given us two financial bars that we need to reach. First, in order to address all initial costs, they require that we raise enough to move overseas, so this goes towards things like initial airfare, a vehicle, and additional language study. The second goal is for us to have a consistent monthly support to cover costs of living, insurance, saving for future travel, supporting the hospital, and various ministry expenses.
While we begin our “pre-field” ministry here in the U.S., we will be interested in meeting with many of you to talk about whether you might partner with us in our ministry. If God has already laid it on your heart to give to our ministry, click the link below to give through the online portal. 
We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but we wish to walk in faith and obedience to God. We are excited to see disciples made in Togo and West Africa and to see new, healthy churches rise up and send missionaries of their own. It is thrilling to see how God is using the ministries in Togo, and we are ready to labor where “the laborers are few.” (Matt. 9:37)
Seth, Becca, Arwen, Caspian, Elora, Gwynevere, Irene, and (soon) Kalmar
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Life is Good on this Journey

Is it wrong to desire what you know to be good? Isn’t life precious and good? Is that not what we are to cherish, respect, and fight for?

For several weeks now we’ve been quietly praying a familiar prayer. We’re asking God to heal Arwen of her cancer and restore her eleven-year-old body to health. Yet our prayers somehow feel more cautious than before, as if we find ourselves holding our breath: daring to hope…fearing doubt. Arwen has had two cycles of her experimental treatment now. Certainly, she’s been through a lot of treatments over the past year and a half. She’s had dozens of CT scans, MIBG scans, MRIs, bone marrow biopsies, not to mention hundreds of pokes and labs. This week, she had all those scans again, but this is the first series of test after starting this new treatment. With all those previous treatments and scans and tests, we’ve not ever had good news. Nothing had worked. We were out of options. Now we’re checking to see, for the first time, if this untested therapy might prove effective when all else has failed.

We know what we want from God in this situation. We want a good thing to happen. Our hearts ache to receive good news. We’re asking for health and healing and life for our daughter. These aren’t wrong desires. Matthew 7:11 describes God as a father who gives good things to His children. We believe it’s true. Yet this truth is not in contradiction to the rest of God’s truth. I personally have momentary lapses in my prayers where I’m tempted to tell God that my worship for him will be profound if he would grant me my wish or that he would surely be glorified by so many if he would display His power in the way that I see fit. Oh, but who are we to bargain with God? Before his death, Jesus prayed making known to the Father his fervent request, but he also took on the attitude of obedience and surrender, “not my will but yours be done.” We must not presume to elevate ourselves above the humble posture of obedience that Christ so perfectly modeled. We must lay our will down upon the alter of sacrifice while still worshiping the Lord with our whole selves. He will be glorified, and he will accomplish his glorification according to his own wisdom. Whatever may come, we prostrate ourselves before God in humble worship and thanksgiving.

Life is precious. Life is good and worth preserving and fighting for and praying for. The reason life is precious and good is because it is God who created life and he who gave it to us. He has given us all good things and we have no claim upon anything without His sanction. We lay our mortal lives down at his feet along with our desires - His will to be done.

Here we wait. With resolve, we present our need to God, surrendering our will to him in obedience. Trusting him and his perfect wisdom, we praise and worship him no matter the outcome of any circumstance. We choose to joyfully thank him in all things, and we wait. We wait for test results, but more than that, we wait expectantly to see how God will be glorified - he will be glorified. Praise God that he has willed to give us life abundantly. God is good.

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