To the Ends of the Earth

People sometimes ask me what it’s like working as a missionary. I find it really hard to answer. My heart’s desire is that more people would go to the mission field, and I want to “promote” it. But the reality of leaving one’s home and going to a new culture isn’t all diamonds.

Who really likes eating a food that they’ve never seen or heard of before, particularly when it smells terrible? Who enjoys living somewhere where it’s 20 degrees (or more) colder or warmer than their home climate, particularly where there aren’t air conditioners or heaters? Who desires to discover that there only recourse for a shower is cold water in a bucket? Who likes being seen as an outsider every day, someone who carries with them all the stereotypes of their home culture in the minds of those with whom they hope to share the love of Jesus or with whom they have to live and minister?

Sometimes, by the questions I get, it seems people view mission work as glamorous, exciting, or exotic. Or, they think of a missionary as someone who is super spiritual. The reality is that mission work is hard. It involves letting go of nearly everything you’ve ever known and being willing to put on things that seem odd – sometimes that even seem wrong. For us, as Americans, it often means we come wrapped with a great number of accusations against us simply for coming from the USA, whether the accusations are true or not.

As far as being super spiritual, a missionary isn’t any more spiritual than any other person who is in Christ. We all have everything we need for life and godliness. Those who are following God’s call on their life may have contentment that escapes those who haven’t found God’s sweet spot for their lives, but I’ve yet to meet the missionary who doesn’t struggle with envy, pride, sadness, anger, loneliness, and all the other feelings that we humans have when we don’t find our joy in Jesus Christ alone.

Our family is preparing to go to South Africa in less than one week. I’m excited, yes, and I know from past experience that there is nothing like the feeling of seeing someone understand God for the first time or providing food for someone who hasn’t had a meal for several days, but I’m still plagued with thoughts like these:

Why am I going?

I wish I could just be in Arkansas and eating a Shake’s custard after a dinner of buffalo chicken tenders from Slim Chicken’s.

I wish I could see my family and that my boys could play baseball.

What can I really do to help anyone in South Africa?

I’m not even accepted in England; why would I be accepted there? (Come to think of it, am I accepted anywhere?!)

Why can’t I just live a “normal life”?

But I know this, God is faithful and never changes. God is always infinitely good, faithful, merciful, just, kind, loving, forgiving and wise. He told me to go and make disciples of all the nations. That is His purpose for me and for everyone who follows Him. So, I’m going. He told me that He would bless me and make me a blessing to the nations. And, I can rest in joy knowing that I am obeying Him and that through my obedience I am loving Him. When i give a cup of clean water to a young child in a slum, I am giving Jesus a cup of water. When I feed his sheep, I demonstrate my love for Him. And that is exciting.

Wow, come to think of it, I am excited! And I am with the Great I Am.

Ask God to help you catch the fever for following His call to the Nations. May you follow Him to the very ends of the earth.

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