“What is it really like to be a missionary?” I asked my nine year old friend, Landon that question. He listed these words: courage, brave, fun, liking people, and sharing Jesus. Landon got it right. In all our years on the mission field in Asia and in the mid-Atlantic being a missionary is having courage to say yes to the call, enduring misconceptions and facing spiritual warfare, being brave enough to step outside comfort zones, having fun when it is easy AND when it is hard, making a decision to like the people you serve, and sharing Jesus every day. The best part…no missionary does it alone, Jesus is with us every step of the way. And since we are all missionaries, that is good news!
Courage: David gave his son Solomon this advice, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.” (I Chronicles 28:20 NIV) As a missionary, those are words to cling to! Within our first term in Asia we experienced: two 7.2 earthquakes, a volcanic eruption, typhoid fever, dengue fever, dysentery, kidney stones, an ambush, kidnapping threats, three moves, undiagnosed illnesses, break ins, a drought, accusations of being C.I.A., and seen as rich Americans with no morals as portrayed in the movies. And still finding time for language/culture learning, church planting, home schooling, Bible studies, outreach aerobic classes, and learning to cook with strange ingredients.
Afraid? Yes. Discouraged? Yes. But as He promised, the Lord God, my God was with us and He did not fail or forsake us. He walked before us preparing the way. The right doctor in place with every disease: Not even a bruise in the ambush.
Did the work get finished? Yes. There were thirteen new church starts. Women who prayed to receive Christ in aerobics classes. More victories than we could have imagined.
Now that we are in the Mid-Atlantic is it easier? No! Spiritual warfare and challenges still exist. Within our first year I had the mumps, knee surgery, four flat tires at once, a death in the family, and more. And, we are the only believers in our American neighborhood. God still promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Bravery: I am most comfortable in the middle of southern hospitality and friends who love Jesus more than anything. In both of my mission fields not many of those folks have been around. Living outside my comfort zone has meant learning to shop in an open air market with nothing packaged (including meat), speaking a language that is not my own (one in the Philippines and one in inner city Baltimore!), choosing to live in an urban area because that is where the people are who need Jesus, and digging deep to find the courage to say, “Can I tell you about Jesus?”: Being brave; after all God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Fun: Jesus is fun! And full of surprises! I’ll never forget talking to a vendor at the local market about Dr. Pepper in a country where Coke and Pepsi were the only choices. The next week the vendor had Dr. Pepper! Or the birthday I felt homesick and 40 people showed up at 4:00 a.m. to serenade under my window as an expression of love. Or the friend who came to the hospital every day for six weeks to wash my air while I was in traction for a back injury. Or laughing to the point of tears with the friends who helped us move again. David said, “Rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice!” Life, missions, following Jesus….it’s a blast!
Liking People: Sometimes it is hard. Why do they blow their nose on the road instead of in a Kleenex? Do they really eat white bean ice cream? Why doesn’t that person look for a job? It is amazing how culture, rather it be from another country or anther geographic location in the U.S., molds who we are as people. The bottom line is this; without Jesus death is real with Jesus eternal life is real. Allowing Jesus to love others through us can make an eternal difference for someone.
Sharing Jesus: Every time we walk out our door, be it in anther country, an urban city or a suburban neighborhood we are sharing Jesus. As people watch us live our life they are seeing Jesus. “For God so loved the world…” carries the same message in every language in every nation and in every neighborhood. As believers, we get to be the messengers!
Be strong and courageous and do the work…it’s incredible!