For some reason, I have been hearing a lot about foreign missionaries lately. When I went to the leadership overnight, they kept talking about Summer Project and some of the missionaries in Far East. Before that, we listened to a speaker talk about the his mission work in Japan (which was really interesting I might add; sadly, I can't remember his name). Many of my friends are tweeting about their mission trips they are either on or went on over break. My Facebook homepage seemed flooded with mission work my friends are doing or about to do. Even the adds on the side of my Facebook page are advertising mission groups! LOL! Random conversations over the past few weeks have popped up about foreign missions: my friends reminiscing about their past mission trips, my friends telling me about the mission trips they are going on this summer, etc.
My world seems flooded for foreign missions! Yet strangely, through all of that, I didn't feel one ounce of conviction to help. Hear me out before you send me hate mail, close this page, and storm off. I didn't feel the need to give them money, I didn't feel the urge to go to some foreign country and help, and I didn't feel conviction that I had missed out on mission work. It wasn't like the Holy Spirit wasn't speaking to me, because trust me, He was!
What I did feel convicted of was two things: to pray earnestly for those overseas and helping in foriegn missions (which I neglected to do before as much), and to be a better missionary here in America.
We are all called to be missionaries: some of us overseas to foreign lands, but most of us to our own neighbors around us. I know we hear that in church all the time, but do we really apply it? I mean, its easy to go overseas to a radically different climate and culture and minister there effectively. We put our whole effort into it, leave stuff behind in our homes that we won't need, and really try to meet the needs of the people we are serving during the days/weeks/months we are over there. Then we get back home and relax. We chill out, we go back to our normal way of living. We remember those fond memories of "how God moved in ______" but we forget that God wants to move here, in America, too.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing foreign missions! They are amazing and teach us more than we can learn here in America. But what I am trying to say is: why don't we put as much effort in our immediate surroundings here in the states that we put overseas?
This is what God has been convicting me of the past few weeks as I have been hearing these stories of missions: to be a missionary here in America. This conviction hasn't just been all the sudden in my life either: it has been a calling that began years before.
It started when I was in 8th grade and heard one of my friends who was a senior in high school tell about her mission trip to Russia that past summer. She said that she worked in an orphanage over there and was appalled at the living conditions these poor children had to live in. It really changed her life to see what those people went through. But ironically enough, she told me what was most convicting was not the trip, but what the leader of the Russian orphanage told her before she got on the plane to go home: "I vant to zank you for comming to help us; I really do! But consider zis: before you come back to help us again, fix ze problems in your own country. Zen you vurry about our problems." She told me she was blown away by that. Not at his boldness in his statement, because she had gotten used to the boldness of the Russians, but that he opened her eyes to something she had never thought about before: that we have a whole bunch of dying and hurting people in our own country that are in need of just as much help as these orphans in Russia. When she told me all of that, I was stunned. It set me on the path I am currently headed down.
Later on, I attended a Christian conference in high school that dealt with missions. I got uber pumped up about going on a mission trip that summer! I was gonna go to the Far East and minister to the people there! One problem: money. So I went to the associate pastor of my church with full intentions to ask him about a potential scholarship to go to the Far East. Instead, I asked him what he thought about me going. We started talking, and I don't remember much of what he said, but I do remember these words because they changed my life forever: "Adam, you can't be a good missionary overseas until you are a good missionary in your own backyard." Wow..... I never thought of it that way. If I didn't have a heart for people around me, how could I really have a heart for those overseas?
Disclaimer: I know MANY missionaries who have a calling to go overseas to a certain people group. So before anyone gets offended and takes my associate pastor's statement WAY out of context, realize that God calls people where He calls them. But we ALL should be missionaries wherever we are at, regardless of how we feel about it, even if we don't have a heart for the people group.
Talking about missions these past few weeks brought back all that information I was taught over the years. I discovered my calling. When I was first called to into the ministry, I didn't know what I was supposed to do. People all around me were saying that God called them to do _______, or work with _______ group, or go to _______ country. I didn't get any of that. I just was called. Now I understand.
I am an American Missionary. I am specifically called to minister to the hurt, dying, and lost people of the United States of America. That is why I didn't feel convicted to go overseas or give money (mostly because I don't have any). What money I do have I feel I should invest here, in my local group of people, imparting to them what I can, being there for them when I can, and serving them when I can. I love America, but not in the sense of how most people do. I love the people here. I really want to impact the Kingdom of God right here in America.
This is my conviction. Even though you may not be called specifically to minister to a certain people group, just remember, you are a missionary right where you are at. Can people see that in you?
Following His Call,
(2 Corn 3:6)