My co-worker and fellow blogger shared this article with me in which the columnist challenged people, in the new year and the new decade, to look at a few things through fresh eyes. The writer listed 52 suggestions, one for every week of the year. This week’s topic is foreign missionaries.
Like so many callings, it takes a special kind of person to be a missionary in a foreign country where the language, food, and customs are unfamiliar. God did not equip me (as of now) with what it takes to do such ministry. I would fail miserably at it because He has not given me the gifts needed to serve Him in other countries. It’s so obvious to me that this is the case because when I have the opportunity to hear a missionary to another country talk about their work, their hearts are totally in it, they are invested 110 percent and they can’t help it. It’s like they’re made for it. They have genuine care not only for the spiritual well-being of the people they are with but for their physical, mental and emotional health. They are deeply in love with the people they are ministering to.
I don’t possess that kind of passionate love for people in other countries. I don’t mean that to sound harsh, it’s just not the area he’s given me to work in. I see the same kind of devotion in other areas of ministry — youth pastors have it toward teenagers, children’s workers toward children, pastors toward families and individuals. I don’t know exactly what that area is for me; I’m still finding my way into the ministry and service He has for me. I know, as of right now, it’s not on foreign soil.
A couple of years ago our pastor preached a sermon series about putting your “yes” on the table, basically telling God up front,”Whatever You have for me I’ll do it, even before knowing what it is.” For a lot of things I could do that. But a mission trip to another country? In theory, I could say yes to that if he asked me to, but could I say yes, I’ll do anything anywhere without really knowing what He had in mind? The answer was no, I couldn’t. So then the question became what was holding me back? Specifically, what was I afraid of? Our church sends a mission team each year to Nicaragua, so I thought about that — what keeps me from signing up to go to Nicaragua? The biggest thing is my family and my job. My job, if I have the vacation hours, I can take off work. But leaving family takes a little more planning and sacrifice on everyone’s part. But, I do it for other things, work trips and fun trips. If I’m willing to do it for those things, why not for Him?
As I thought more about it, there was more there than just inconveniencing the kids or John or whomever else would be called upon to help care for my family while I was away on a mission trip. I figured out that I was afraid I wouldn’t come back. I was afraid that going on a mission trip would result in my death, either a crash of a plane or helicopter I was in, a strange disease or reaction to foods or environment, an attack by animals, or worse, an attack by the people we would be ministering to (too many times watching End of the Spear I guess.) This troubled me because as a Christian I’m not supposed to be afraid to die, because I know where I’m going after death and it’s a place much better than here. So then why was I? Selfishly, I didn’t want to miss seeing my boys grow up and all that that entails. But I was less worried about me and what I’d miss and more worried about the people I’d leave behind. I didn’t want to leave John a widow or my boys without me as their mom. Silly, I know. But that’s honestly where I came to. I had to deal with that before I could really say “yes” to anything. I had to come to the point where, if God wanted me to go to Nicaragua and as a result I lost my life, then He had a plan where my family would be taken care of. That was not an easy place for me to get to; my family was not an easy thing to surrender.
The entire time I was thinking Nicaragua since I knew that seemed like a real possibility that might actually come up. I remember well the day I resolved that if He asked me to go to Nicaragua I would go. I remember it so well because it was the day our church announced they were organizing a team to go to China. China? God and I been talking anywhere but I kinda had pictured Nicaragua. Now China? He wasn’t asking me to go and still hasn’t impressed upon me that He wants me involved in foreign missions. But presenting me that day with China was the next step to see just how serious I was about giving up my family to Him. It felt like He was saying, “OK, so you’ll give me your family while you go to Nicaragua but will you give me your family while you go to China?” He upped the ante. What a sense of humor God has. I smiled. Yes Lord, even China.