When people think of missionaries, a sense of awe and wonder comes upon people. It is as if missionaries in the jungles of Papua New Guinea are super-star Christians. For the longest time I wanted the super-star status. I have desired to be a missionary since middle school. I loved the dream of moving across the globe and embracing another culture. And for the longest time, I loved feeling as if I was a part of the elite Christian club of Missionaries.
Thankfully, God continues to mold my thoughts about my future and show me grace for the times I have viewed it wrong. He continues to remind me of His Gospel, even through my confused thoughts on missions.
Here are some of the missionary phases I went through and what the Lord taught me:
The Elite Club
This is the view as noted earlier. I began thinking this way once I started meeting missionaries. I thought, Wow, they must be really faithful to the Lord. To me it seemed that these people were really able to hear the voice of God and know the will of God. In this false view, missionaries are elevated too highly. This could very well cause people in their local churches to feel unworthy, to feel as if they are not doing the will of God. The Lord had to teach me: all are equal whether missionary, stay-at-home mom, or CEO. Ultimately, we all have access to the Lord. Missionaries do not have secret access to God in the form of a plane ticket to the 10/40 window. We are all called to make an impact WHEREVER God chooses to place us, on the mission field or in our hometown.
Rejecting the American Dream
This phase developed after my first mission trips seeing the poverty in Mexico and Uruguay. Seeing the Godless void in those countries broke my heart. Hearing stories from missionaries of the spiritual warfare and oppression they go through daily kindled a spark in my heart. When returning to the United States, I became a guerrilla fighter against the American dream. I would make “Jesus Jukes” before the phrase was even coined. I tried to embrace the best way possible to live like someone from a third-world country. I embraced a poverty gospel theology. When we believe this gospel we are saying to be accepted by Christ we must live in poverty and self-deprecation. This sounds like a cool gospel for all those hipster-future missionaries, but this way is a slippery path. The Lord taught me I do not need little material things to be accepted by Him. I am loved and accepted, no matter the state of my equity, and I am to be content in whatever the financial state placed around me.
As I plan to move overseas one day I am confident in saying, “I will sell everything and go,” but this is no longer my means of being accepted by Christ. This statement is out of faith and obedience to Christ; a faith that He will be the supplier of my strength and well-being.
Everyone is a Missionary
This phase became a reality after my trip to Thailand in 2010. After Thailand it was confirmed moving overseas was for me; specifically teaching in another country. But after this trip, I knew I was done with short-term oversea trips. The Lord was teaching me the next time I go, it will be for a long time. My first reaction to the Lord was, “So, what do I do now? What am I able to do if I am not feeding the poor in Lesotho? Telling the good news in the jungle of the Amazon? Teaching English in a school in China?” The Lord’s response, “Do those things in your community.” I realize now, people need Jesus right around me. For goodness sake, I live next door to a nightclub. There are so many people in need of Christ in my current sphere of life, but I have been so wrapped up in the idea that mission work is only done in foreign countries. I forget about my own city. I do not feel I am able to move across the globe until I learn to be a light in my community.
These past three years have been humbling to say the least. I am learning to be a light to those around me. I am learning what it means to be a sender by supporting missionaries financially (yes college students can support missionaries). God has used my past experiences to equip others who are thinking about missions as well as teach people how to make an impact in their current surroundings. We are all missionaries. We are all disciple makers; check out the great commission passages if you are doubtful.
Missionaries are messy people just like everyone else. They are no greater than the blue-collar worker or community group leader. Everyone has a mission field; those moving overseas just have one in another country. Yours might be your frat house, your suburban neighborhood, the inner-city of Chicago, or your office. Wherever you are, allow yourself to be used.
Are you contemplating going overseas? Here are some things to think about first:
– Make sure this is not a decision on a whim but something the Lord is moving you towards.
Talk to friends
– These people know you the best. They will give you the honest opinion about whether this is a dumb idea or something that is for you.
Talk to your mentors
– Your mentors are wiser than you. Ask for their advice.
Are you being a missionary in your community?
– Look at your current state. If you are not being a light where you are now, how do you plan on going to another country and be a light?