I Could Never Be a Missionary

By Charlyn Valencia
In eLetter
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*For the safety of our missionaries, names and locations have been altered

The family poses awkwardly in front of the hut they now call a home. The dad sports his cargo shorts, safari hat, long socks, and button-down shirt. Mom shows off her handmade modest dress as she holds her two-year-old with one hand and carries her two-month-old in her baby wrap. The older children manage to painfully smile, hoping for the moment to be released to go back to play with their friends.

For many evangelicals in the US, this is our view of missions: awkward, uncomfortable and, at times, painful. Some might think that it’s obsolete in our rapidly changing world. And yet, there’s something intriguing about the mystery of missions. What is a missionary? What does a missionary do? What do I have to offer?

I’d like to paint a different picture of missions for you and roll back the curtain on the mystery of missions.

What is a missionary?

Often this word is assigned to a person who decides to live in a cross-cultural context sharing their faith in Jesus. I’m about to share something with you that might rock your world - Scripture doesn’t use the term “missionary,” ever. The New Testament uses the word “disciple” to describe a person who follows Jesus. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” A missionary is someone who follows God’s truth, believes in Christ’s life, work, death and resurrection, and yields themselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In other words, a missionary is a disciple, a follower of Jesus.

There are times when I return to the US after a mission trip and people tell me, “I could never do that.” I’m not sure if it’s long flights, exposing oneself to an ongoing upset stomach, or being uncomfortable. We don’t mind taking a long flight to go on vacation, so it must not be the flight. If not cooked properly, bad BBQ could do a number on us, regardless, we take a risk and checkout that new BBQ place, so certainly sickness can’t be it. More often than not it’s the discomfort of traveling somewhere where we don’t know the language, not sleeping in our own bed and/or doing something we’ve never done. The unknown can be scary, but that’s why God promises to comfort us (2 Cor. 1:3), to guide us (Isa. 30:21), and to be with us (Mat. 28:20). If the creator of the universe promises us all these things, is it really THAT scary?

What does a missionary do?

This past Fall I had the joy of spending a few weeks in Europe meeting with some of our church’s global partners. They are people who followed God and eventually decided to join His work in a cross-cultural context, missionaries.

D is almost 70 years old and works in Europe. She hosts other missionaries from that part of the world who are seeking respite and care for their mental health. For decades, D was a professor and felt led by God to use her gifts overseas. Her willingness to serve God in this type of context came after many years of faithfully saying “yes” to God. She used her gifts for God’s glory while living in the US and now gets to use her gifts in a cross-cultural context.

B works in a different part of Europe. After years of serving at IBC, offering her gifts, passions, and training to God for Him to use it to reach children in her local context, He invited her to use those same gifts in a cross-cultural context. Along with other missionaries, she works at a community center ministering to refugee families, specifically children. Her heart is for children to experience the love God has for them.

The Post family has worked in Ireland for almost 20 years. Always knowing they wanted to enter ministry full-time, they went to seminary for training. During their last year in seminary, God began to call their attention to unchurched people. That is, people who have no access to an evangelical person within a certain radius of their home. Eventually, God created opportunities for them to serve in Ireland. They currently introduce people to the Christian faith, disciple new believers and raise up leaders in their church.

The picture described at the beginning of this blog is a common vision that comes to mind when people think about a missionary or missionary family. Sometimes God presents us with new visions for things so we can see that either (1) things really aren’t like that or (2) there’s a new way of doing things. Each of these individuals have different backgrounds, gifts and passions, but they have one thing in common—they’re disciples who offered themselves up for God’s kingdom. They exercised saying “yes” to God in their daily lives, faithfully taking steps to make God known and He led them to be missionaries.

What about me?

At this point some of you might be thinking, “Yup, that’s still not for me.” And that’s okay! I’d encourage you to continue seeking ways to use your gifts to make disciples in your current contexts. For some of you, your wheels may be turning as you see that this really isn’t that mysterious after all. You might be thinking what you should do next or where to sign up for a mission trip. If you’re not quite ready to commit to a trip, start off by using your gifts and abilities in your community. IBC has several local partners that have meaningful ways of serving (https://www.irvingbible.org/servelocal). If you’re interested in serving God in a cross-cultural context, I would encourage you to prayerfully consider going on an international mission trip (sign up here: https://irvingbible.ccbchurch.com/goto/forms/1125/responses/new).

No matter where you are in your walk as a disciple of Jesus or where you are on this earth, remember that your gifts and abilities can always benefit the Kingdom of God.

So what’s stopping you?

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