Why does missions work make us so anxious and squirmy?
Why are we so scared of it?
I remember being about 20 or 21 and at a retreat with my college ministry. There were about 200 of us there, and the speaker for the week was a missionary from Thailand. He regaled us with stories about his life. He opened up about the various ups and downs that accompany missionary life. He shared with us that, while he was glad for this time to be back in the states, catching up with family and friends, he couldn’t wait to get back to his Thai home and continue growing what had been planted there.
It sounded exotic.
It sounded thrilling.
It sounded amazing.
I was fascinated.
That was, until the last night, when he asked us to earnestly pray about where God might be sending us (Sending…ME???), overseas, as a missionary one day. Then all of a sudden, my whole attitude changed.
What sounded exotic became unknown and scary.
What felt thrilling turned difficult and frustrating.
This wasn’t AMAZING, it was crazy. And not in a good way.
Fascination gave way to fear, and I shut down. I even said (under my breath, but a little too loudly) “God…DON’T. YOU. DARE.” I really did. Oh, the hubris and cockiness of those in their early 20’s. *sigh*
I have always been someone who has appreciated missions. My mailbox welcomes many support letters from friends overseas, China, Thailand, Sub-Saharan Africa (and now, Spain!) and I delight in reading how God is moving in their lives. But the joy I feel about someone ELSE’S missionary journeys is a veiled and unholy relief that it’s not ME in their shoes.
I will champion missions all day long. Just don’t send me, Lord. PLEASE, don’t send me.
Am I alone in this? Am I the only one fearing the call from God to go to parts unknown, preaching His gospel to people who sometimes don’t give a care, and possibly risking my LIFE in the process? I don’t think I am…
I wasn’t always this way. In fact, that 20-year-old threatening God a few paragraphs ago, was less than a year removed from spending his summer in Haiti, volunteering at an orphanage and loving on the people of a tiny, remote village five hours from the bustling capital city. In college I gave up every spring break to go on some sort of mission trip; service-based, evangelism-focused, it didn’t matter as long as I was being used by God.
So, what changed?
I think when you’re 19 and in college, opportunities come to you and you say yes because what else are you going to do? And when else will you get opportunity like that! I mean, come on! You’re young! You’re free! You’re available! You don’t PLAN, you just DO!
But this man was asking me to think about my FUTURE. And, as many of you can attest…my future was booked. I was going to get married at some point. I’d have kids, a career, a mortgage, and more responsibilities at home than I could ever imagine. In THAT future, there was no place for missions.
But…God calls us to GO.
It’s the very last message He leaves us with, before He returns to the Father. With all the authority He has (and, as far as authority goes, He rightfully mentions in Matthew 28:18 the He has ALL OF IT, EVERYWHERE, FOREVER) He says we are to “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” -Matthew 28:19
Many of us have spouses and children and jobs and loans and dreams that don’t seem to have anything to do with missions. But missions is for all, regardless of what we’ve accumulated, attained, and created. So, how do we reconcile a call to GO, when very real duties and charges beckon us to STAY?
We are following Mo’s mission trip to Spain. But we’re also taking time to hear from some of us who are NOT overseas, and whose lives don’t seem super “mission-y” at first glance. But I’d argue that they are, and God has given us an incredible opportunity and calling to live missionally right HERE, in Tacoma, Washington.
So my prayer for all of us this season is that we can pray in two ways:
Firstly, we can pray that the chains of fear and hesitation to the door of overseas and/or long-term missions will be loosed in our lives. Not saying that God is calling us to Sri Lanka tomorrow…but He might…and we should be open to that. Or at least pray to be open to that. Or, in some cases, pray for the DESIRE to be open about that. Hey, we gotta start somewhere!
And secondly, pray in boldness that God can show you what your mission field is right here right now in your day-to-day lives and get after it! God wants to be known. And He has named us His best strategy for bringing that about.