Why I Decided to Call Myself a Missionary, and Why I’m Glad I Did

8772b3468bf2ab7343534e35f3728ed5  So send I you to labor unrewarded,
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown,
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing-
So send I you to toil for Me alone.

So send I you to bind the bruised and broken,
O’er wand’ring souls to work, to weep, to wake,
To bear the burdens of a world aweary-
So send I you to suffer for My sake.

So send I you to loneliness and longing,
With heart a hung’ring for the loved and known,
Forsaking home and kindred, friend and dear one-
So send I you to know My love alone.

So send I you to leave your life’s ambition,
To die to dear desire, self-will resign,
To labor long, and love where men revile you-
So send I you to lose your life in Mine.

So send I you to hearts made hard by hatred,
To eyes made blind because they will not see,
To spend, tho’ it be blood, to spend and spare not-
So send I you to taste of Calvary.

~Margaret Clarkson

I used to be a picky eater.  I hated eating anything that looked weird, had a funny name, or sounded distinctly Asian.  Then one day it all changed.  My mom told me that if I wanted to be a missionary I had to learn to eat whatever was placed in front of me.  I could not go to the mountains of Nepal or the jungles of Mozambique and still expect to live off of the five foods I had chosen to have an affinity for.  Ever since that day, I have taken pride in being adventurous.  Whenever I am at restaurants, I try to go for whatever sounds the most bizarre and when I moved to Scotland the very first thing on my bucket list was trying haggis.
Cuisine may be an almost insignificant aspect of the missionary life; however, it marks a distinct change in my heart and soul.  A change from the familiar, the pleasant, and the comfortable, to engaging in something more akin to Dorothy following the yellow brick road on her way to Oz with no clue what awaits her.

I believe there is a bit of Dorothy in each of us.  Inside every heart, no matter how preoccupied with reason, is a sense of adventure.  A sense of longing for something our hearts and minds cannot perceive and a sense of waiting on God to show us what we instinctively know we could never solve for ourselves.  At least this has been my experience.
This past year, I felt God calling me to go to Scotland and to serve as a missionary.  Now the very fact that I call myself a missionary is something I struggled with for several months and something I have occasionally questioned even now that I am living abroad.  I grew up with this notion that missionaries are people who have the distinct role of spreading the Gospel.  In fact, when I was around 7 years old I learned a song at my Christian school that went like this: “Be a missionary every day.  Show the world the Jesus is the Way.  It could be town or country or the busy avenue, but be a missionary, God’s own embassary, be a missionary today.”  At the same time I remember being intrigued by stories from people who lived abroad well into my young adult years.  I was enchanted by tales of people risking their lives for the sake of the Gospel, smuggling Bibles, dodging bullets, and forsaking all they had.  In almost every scenario, these people moved abroad to a completely different culture, far from all the comforts of home.  They had to learn to eat completely new foods, learn a different language, wear different types of clothes, and had to learn strange customs.    It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I was introduced to something different.  A ministry practice that taught me that missionaries were most needed in European and Western countries and that missional living begins right at home.

So when I felt God leading me to go to Scotland, my initial thought was to rebel against the label of missionary.  I am not here to outwardly proselytize nor am I doing any form of conventional church or ministry work.  However, I decided to go for the title anyways, and it has been incredibly beneficial that I have done so.  Here’s why:

  • Calling myself a missionary has enabled me to have a greater vision for the work I do.

One of my good friends has served as an urban missionary for several years in a multi-cultural city within Canada.  One day we went for a walk and she told me that she believes all Christians are called to be missionaries, and I also share this notion.  The truth is that as long as you believe in Christ and take His command to share the Good News and to engage in social justice seriously, you can always find ways to plug in and serve.  I can be a missionary to a friend when we are having coffee, when I am delivering needed goodies to the homeless, or even when I am doing something as simple as cleaning a toilet.  That’s because it’s not about the work we are doing necessarily, but about the mindset we do it with.  You could be a mega church pastor who is completely devoid of love and compassion.  Then it doesn’t matter whether or not you are doing “Christian” work, you aren’t showing the love of Christ in the least.  Likewise you could be a carpet cleaner or a cashier who tries to treat everyone with respect, equality, and dignity.  Then it doesn’t matter whether you feel you are doing some relatively insignificant work or not, you actually wield significant authority and power to influence people on a deeply spiritual level.

  • Calling myself a missionary has helped other people share in my calling.

Before I came to Scotland, I sent out prayer letters stating that I was going to serve in Europe as a missionary.  This really enabled me to be covered with prayer.  Before I left I experienced a bunch of really weird things happening to me.  It wasn’t so much the things themselves, but the order in which they occurred.  First I got sick and the doctor wasn’t even sure whether or not I was healthy enough for anything strenuous (thankfully, it ended up being nothing major).  Then I had some occurrences at work and school which just added stress upon stress.  In those moments, I was so thankful to have a family of friends at Tyndale who I was sharing my dorm with for the summer.  I remember those students surrounding me in prayer and with the comfort of the Bible.  Since several of them are full-time missionaries they told me that what I was experiencing was Spiritual warfare.  Satan meant to discourage me from my trip and that was the reason all these things were happening all at once and literally one month (or even up to a few weeks) before my plane took off.  Almost all of them had experienced something similar when they first left for the mission field.  Although spiritual warfare is often unpleasant, I remember my pastor telling me that it can also be a good thing.  We can be encouraged that Satan finds us a threat because it means we are doing something right in our faith walk and in our serving.

  • Being a missionary has made me more proactive.

You may be well aware of the stats that Europe has seen the greatest decline in Christianity.  People over here have a hardened atheism.  It isn’t just some belief that God isn’t real because they haven’t experienced Him themselves, it is a complete breakaway from Christendom.  It is this sense of being so aggressively against God and so interested in intellect and reason that those who believe in God are seen as being hopelessly naïve and foolish.  This may not be the sense in all of Europe; however, I have met several people from many different European countries during my time abroad and this seems to be a prevailing worldview.

Since I decided to come as a missionary, I have been able to pray for Spiritual protection over myself concerning these matters more readily.  I also have been able to pray for new Spiritual eyes as I often find myself in situations where I have the opportunity to love and encourage those who are the most disadvantaged.

So, after all this, the title of “missionary” may still seem elusive or even inappropriate for some.  I am not currently serving as a preacher, I am very much giving personal care.  I do talk openly and frequently about my faith and sometimes have questions specifically addressed to me, however, I also try to do it in a tactful and respectful way.  Especially because I work with adults who have learning disabilities, I want to be very sure not to influence them in any way because of my power or perceived authority over them.  Yet, more and more, I have discovered that I really and truly am a missionary serving abroad.  And so are you.  I have changed my mind.  Being a missionary does not necessarily mean eating Kimchi or confronting witch doctors, instead, it can simply mean being present and being a Christian in any setting you find yourself in.  I guarantee that if you decide to enter this missionary calling for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.  You will find yourself surrounded by friends and most importantly by the love of God and that is truly the most important thing of all.

 

 

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