Saturday, June 2, 2012

My journey into missions

Why do I want to be a missionary?

I remember when I was about 14 years old. The "big question" had come up a number of times ("What do you want to do with your life? What career are you going into?") and I didn't have an answer. I was never one to think ahead much, and I definitely didn't have my 5-year-plan mapped out. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that I felt a slight annoyance that people were already asking me this question. Why did I already have to know? Couldn't I wait to think about that?

One day while my mom and I were in the car, I asked her, "What should I do when I grow up? How do I know what I would be good at? How do I know what I would like? How do I choose?"

She answered something about looking at my skills and abilities and narrowing it down that way.

"That's just the thing, though," I said. "I'm good at so many things. I enjoy doing lots of stuff. How do I come to a conclusive choice?"

"Well," she replied, "There's always missions. That will be sure to stretch you in every faculty, every capacity, and every skill you possess. Being a missionary is an undertaking that will challenge you and tax you to your utmost, but it's also an adventure with God--walking by faith, being close to God, and depending on Him for everything."

Hmmm, I thought. Maybe missions wouldn't be so bad.

~ ~ ~

A year later, I signed up to be a summer missionary with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). I worked for three summers in a row doing 5-day-clubs (backyard Bible clubs that teach Bible stories, verses, songs, and missionary stories). That was a good experience and gave me a lot of effective training on how to share my faith. Over 25 children prayed with me to accept Christ that first summer.

It was at a CEF meeting sometime during this period that I watched a film by New Tribes Mission. I don't even know the name of the film, but basically it was about tribe after tribe after tribe in Papau New Guinea who are begging for a missionary. They see other tribes who have missionaries getting saved and gaining peace with God, and they ask the mission to send someone to teach them, too. The mission puts out a plea, but there is no one. There just aren't enough missionaries. So one tribe has waited perhaps 3 years, another tribe 5 years, another tribe 7 years, some tribes even up to 10 years, asking for a missionary, and no one has yet gone to them. Their people are dying with Christ, and no one is there to tell them the Gospel.

This video powerfully spoke to me and I went away burdened with the immense need of the lost and dying world around me. In that moment, I offered myself to God, for Him to use me as He chose. He could send me wherever He pleased. I would do whatever He called me to do.

From then on, in my mind, my career was set. I didn't want to be anything but a missionary.

But there was a slight problem.

I was terribly embarrassed that this was what I wanted to do.

I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone (other than my family) that I wanted to become a missionary. It felt so sacred and close to my heart, I couldn't bear to bring it out into the open among a callous general public and have my heart's desire trampled on by people who just didn't understand. Compounding this problem was that I was extremely shy and didn't like to talk to anyone period, much less mention the deepest desires of my heart.

So on into my teenage years, it almost became a game whenever I was asked the "big question." "So, what are your college plans?" or "Well, what are you going to do with your life?" I always scrambled to find a vague but socially-acceptable answer that would satisfy people's curiosity and get them to stop asking probing questions, without lying, but without telling them anything about missions.

(Now I look back and wonder--why did I have such a hindrance to communicating freely about this to people? The thought that was in my mind was that if anyone knew, I would be rejected as a social outcast. Why did I think that? Funny how our ideas, even untrue ones, effectively keep us bound.)

But I kept looking around, hoping, watching, waiting for God to reveal to me His plan and show me the place I was called to go. Waiting for "the call" of God wasn't easy, especially because I was usually looking for it in the wrong places.

But God wasn't stumped or thwarted by my not knowing the game plan. He knew where He was leading me, and that was enough.

This is the first post in this series. 
Story continues: Call to Evangelism

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