I remember as a young child, missionaries from foreign countries would come to visit our rural midwest church with amazing stories of the work that God was doing around the globe. It was fascinating, but there was a big disconnect–these stories had no real relevance to my daily life. Even as I grew older, missions was something others did and simply shared cool stories with the rest of us.
Jump ahead a few years to my sophomore year of college. I was attending a missions conference in San Francisco. And still there was this disconnect. Missions is what other people do. That is until the final night of the conference. I distinctly remember sitting in this church in downtown San Francisco, there was a great time of worship, an impassioned speaker… And in the midst of all this, a quiet voice asked me to say “yes.”
My first thought was: “Yes to what?” That seemed like a rational response, right?
But the voice was persistent. “I want you to say yes to whatever I ask.”
Let’s be honest, that statement is scary. Whatever God asks? That allows for lots of possibilities and not many of them fit in my comfortable little world. As the evening progressed, the burden on my heart became so great I finally said, “Ok, whatever you ask.”
I was filled with relief, mixed with a fair bit of trepidation. What did this really mean for my future?
Two years and lots of prayer later, I was on a college campus in Northeastern China. I was there as part of a team with the goal of reaching students with the Gospel. Just days before flying out of Seatac I went to a friends house in a bit of a panic. I simply could not grasp why God was allowing me to go and what He could possibly do through me. My life was far from perfect. In fact I was a bit of a mess. Yet, God did have me going on this mission trip.
And it was life-changing.
It was amazing to see how God could open hearts not because of what we said but because of our interactions with each other. People did come to faith in Christ, despite the fact that we were not allowed to talk about faith unless first asked by someone. God was clearly at work in this major city despite the government persecution of Christians. And I was saddened at how much we take our faith and freedom for granted here in the US.
Over the more than 20 years since that trip to China, at least one person from my family has gone on a mission trip–16 times, I think. Here are a few life-changes after those trips:
A mission trip to Liberia: Africa led to us to adopt.
A mission trip to India by our then 13yr old daughter: completely changed her outlook on the world and her faith in Jesus.
These days, I do lots of missions work within the climbing/outdoors community here at home.
Missions has greatly impacted our family in so many ways. And I’ll tell you a little secret, we’re still a mess. Missions hasn’t required us to get everything figured out. It hasn’t fixed all the issues in our home and marriage. But it has changed the way we trust in God. It has changed the way we view the world we live in.
I think that one of the greatest truths we’ve learned as a family came fairly early on. My wife was on a mission trip to Liberia and I was at home with a 3yr old and a 1yr old. Almost nothing about that trip went according to plan. It was in the midst of a civil war and the peace talks failed. My wife ended up taking part in an evacuation from the US embassy and spending three days on a French warship. Despite all that, I was at peace.
In talking about it afterwards, my wife simply stated, “I knew I was where God wanted me to be.” We came to the understanding that this life has no guarantees. We could die tomorrow on our drives to work or school. The comfort comes in simply knowing “am I where God has called me to be today.”
Those missionaries I saw as a kid were where God called them to be. My job is where God has called me to be today. My daughter is at the college where God has called her to be. Each and every one of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus are called to be His people wherever we are. And yes, that sometimes means “mission work,” not just around the world but here at home as well. It is not some special calling for only a few, something that “other” people do.
Paul wrote in his letter to the Roman church: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:13-15
This calls us back to Jesus’ prayer in John 17: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”
We are the ones Jesus is sending. My prayer for each one of you is that wherever you may be today, that you would know that you are sent by the one who has all authority and that you are where He has called you to be today.