Wow, that was quick! I didn’t expect to receive a comment on my first post. That’s okay–it gives me a chance to expand a bit more on what I’m thinking. CLH made the comment below, and I think it will be easier to respond to it in another post, rather than in the comment section.
“I often wonder what people exactly mean by missionaries. What are you doing now if not being a missionary for the gospel of Jesus Christ?
I’m not trying to be harsh or rough, but I believe we over glorify the idea of being a “missionary”–the kind that go to Africa and rough it out in the bush–and miss the real mission at home.
I am not doubting that you could be feeling some sort of call on your life. But I would challenge you to think about what you have to offer it you were to travel over seas. Do you have a skill that will improve the overall life of those you live with? Do you have skills to develop communication with tribes that are isolated by language barriers?
Even in my comment I am assuming you will be going to Africa. If you were to go to say, India, do you have skill to offer there? You can’t just walk in and preach Jesus. There is years of learning and integrating before you will even have a chance to have meaningful conversation.
Please understand, I am not trying to discourage your efforts. Instead, I am suggesting a possible blind spot that the church has at this particular point in history. Please feel free to respond and converse more about this.”
Here’s my response:
I think you have a great point. When I first became a Christian, at the age of 16, I didn’t know what it meant to be a missionary. I did want to be one and expressed that to God and others. I thought that to be a Christian you should be confrontational with all people, constantly pounding them over the head with a Bible. Needless to say, I was very obnoxious and none too effective. 🙂
With time and a bit of maturing, my understanding of Christianity and missions has changed. When I was a teenager I was able to go on three different mission trips: one to El Salvador, one to Mexico, and one to inner-city Milwaukee, WI. My husband is a MK (missionary kid) who spent a good chunk of his childhood in Nigeria. We were able to visit his parents there for a month when we traveled there for his sister’s wedding. I’ve also done a lot of research on my own about missions. For better or worse, it’s just something that’s always been in the back (and sometimes front) of my mind since I became a Christian.
So…what have I learned so far?
1. Missions is something we’re all called to, though the “how” looks different for each person. Very few are actually called to go overseas into what we view as traditional “missionary work.” Like I said, I don’t know yet if we will be overseas or stateside. I just know that I’m drawn to overseas.
2. My own personal philosophy of overseas missions has morphed over time into what it now is. I now believe that if a person native to that country is willing, able, and prepared to do a “ministry” job, they should get the preference over a foreigner. So…if there are plenty of qualified preachers in Nigeria, it would be unwise to bring in an American to pastor a Nigerian church. In some places there are not native people qualified to take certain ministry jobs, so a foreigner may be necessary. The ultimate goal though, should be to then train native peoples to eventually fill that role. Training for additional native people to do the same job elsewhere is also important.
3. Working in the context of the culture you’re entering into is of utmost importance. Establish trust; get to know the people; partner with the nationals; don’t try to impose your value system and way of life on them. I think it’s very important to work closely with Christians native to that country whenever possible.
4. What I envision for myself (only my own thoughts) is working closely with nationals, training them in children’s ministry. In many churches around the world, the children’s ministry has not been fully developed, and in some places there is none at all. Even in those places where there may be the beginnings of one, there may not be opportunities for the leaders to receive training. This could be due to cost, distance, or even no training classes being available. I would love to work in this type of setting, learning from them about how to fit the teaching into their culture and do it in an affordable way, and helping build them up to minister to the children in their own country. If I have the life-experience, training and money to travel around and do this, it makes more sense than for me to plunk down in a little village, take years to learn the language and culture, and then try to teach a small group of children myself. It’s a question of what do we do with the resources God has given us, in the smartest way possible?
Finally, you asked, “What are you doing now if not being a missionary for the gospel of Jesus Christ?”. That is a great question–and extremely valid! When I was younger, I did not have much to offer. I was young and excited and just wanted to go! Now I’m a homeschooling mom to five kids, and director of our church’s children’s ministry. So yes, right now I am being a missionary for the gospel of Jesus Christ, right here in my own little corner of the world. I know that what I’m doing is extremely important, that’s why I’ve chosen to be a stay-at-home mom. The training of my own kids comes first. The kids at my church are my secondary mission field, and I love teaching them about Jesus and equipping other church-folk to do the same. Am I perfect at what I do? No possible way! Am I getting better and learning? Yes!
The time I’m spending right now mothering my kids and directing the children’s ministry is refining and preparation, as all life is, if we view it in the right context. God is showing me amazing things and refining me in ways that, quite frankly, stink sometimes. Since becoming a mother and directing the children’s ministry I’ve had to deal with the following issues: my own anger issues, miscarriage, the grief of losing loved ones, my patience being tested to the max(!!!), discouragement, depression, loneliness, marital issues, discontent with what I have, a poor-me attitude, a sense of entitlement, jealousy, unforgiveness, perseverance, pride, being disciplined, time management, money issues. I have not arrived; these are all areas that still need work. They always will.
If I were sitting stagnant in my easy chair–eating chips and watching Oprah–while professing to want to go overseas, yes you should be worried about me. I should be worried about myself! But God is diligently working on me and I am open to it. I’ve finally realized that if I want to be used of God in great ways, I have to be willing to go through his refining process. There is no manual that tells me what He’ll be working on, when, or in what way–but I can be sure the trials and tests will come–uncomfortable, painful, lesson-teaching circumstances. He’s been faithful through them all so far. I’ve learned to trust Him and obey. I guess those might be the two biggest lessons.
I hope that answers your questions. Please know that I was not trying to be confrontational or rude. I just wanted to state all that information very clearly. Thanks for your thought-provoking comments!