My husband, niece, and oldest daughter left this morning on a missions trip. That may sound awesome, maybe even noble and charitable to some. Before I took my first missions trip, I was always in awe of the notion that people would drop everything and go someplace far away just to help other people. It seemed so selfless, and so much bigger than the life of self-indulgence I was living at the time. There was something admirable about it, even long before I understood what that something was.
Turns out, there are many people who feel this way. Whether or not we understand the real reason why people serve in foreign countries (or come here from foreign countries to serve us), most of us know it is inherently good to do this. We want to “do our part” and help people who are less fortunate than we are. That’s why so many charities exist, even among those who do not know God and don’t understand the calling behind the mission to go and help others.
While I didn’t get to go on this trip, I did have assignments on the back end of the mission, raising money and praying for those who are going, and for those whom they are going to. Throughout those assignments, it was reinforced that people really do believe in the importance of reaching out and helping others. There really are generous people who want to take part somehow in what they instinctively know is good and true and right. There was no lack of support for this trip, which was a beautiful thing to see.
Yet, I know there is more to this trip than garnering support and sacrificing personally to help the less fortunate. Those two aspects are what most people looking in from the outside of the trip will see, but for those on the inside, the view is much, much different. If you’ve never answered the call to missions work, I’d like to invite you to see this incredible view for a moment.
For someone like me, who met Jesus at 5 years old, and grew up hearing His voice, the mission field is a natural place to gravitate toward. My life in Christ has been far from perfect, and there were many years when I wandered without the care and guidance of a shepherd, but eventually God had His way and brought me into community with those who’ve been called to the same mission. They have the same burning in their hearts that I do. For us, leaving all to follow Jesus wherever He might desire to take us, so that we can share what we have with others, is a completely natural longing and willingness. We understand that this is God’s heart: to tell the world about His goodness and to demonstrate that goodness with our own lives. But we don’t just understand that it’s His heart. As we grow in Him, we embrace His heart until it becomes our heart, too.
For someone like my husband, my niece, and my soon-to-be 16-year-old daughter, however, it’s not such a natural thing. And for others who are taking this trip beside them – people with unimaginably painful and difficult circumstances in their current lives – it’s definitely not a “normal” thing to do. As I sit back and think about the many personalities and the stories of the people who said yes to this mission – who engaged their hearts in this assignment and calling – I marvel at the miracle of God visibly at work in their commitment to go.
You see, my teenage daughter is…well…a teenager. There are many other “worthy” pursuits she could have at her age. So many different distractions beg for her attention daily. But when this missions trip was announced, though her first response was uncertainty about going, she decided to pray for God’s heart and quickly realized she was meant to go. She got busy working to help pay her own way, and has fought through her own doubts, fears and insecurities in the commitment to give all she has to bless the people of the nation she knows she is being sent to.
My niece was born to tragedy and has fought to overcome the kind of strangleholds that usually choke out a life under their sway. The most natural thing in the world would be for her to indulge her own pain and pacify her grief with things that are far from sacrificial. Yet she worked hard, prayed harder, fought her own fears and tendency to self-preserve, and showed up for this trip.
And my husband? He was a scarred man once upon a time. Scarred by religion, the church, and the image of God He was introduced to through imperfect and abusive people. Saying yes to anything remotely related to God was, for most of his life, inconceivable for Him. Because he has a beautiful, tender heart, he might have donated to support the cause and told those going on such a trip that what they were doing was super cool.
He might even have longed, somewhere in that tender heart, to do something similar one day – but definitely not because it was something He was called by God to do. It would have been purely his own desire to be helpful and to “give back,” and would likely have been rooted in his own memory of what it was like to grow up without having much. Again, noble and charitable, but it would have been nothing more than a nice opportunity for him to participate in, and might have left a small mark on him that he could look back upon with fondness and possibly even pride.
However, because I’ve seen his journey up close for the past 20 plus years, I can attest to the reality that his choice to engage with this mission is much more than mere human kindness and generosity. He is there because He has been called to be there. What once was so unnatural to him, while he was far from God, is now his new normal. And what once may have been rooted in common decency and humanitarian motives is now rooted in a love that is so much bigger than his own. God’s love, which now has access to his heart, has drawn him (them) out of himself (themselves) and toward another nation – not just to help, but to actively demonstrate His love and His care for the world.
From the outside, even if one might consider it noble and charitable, it appears to be foolish to leave one’s own comfortable home, family and safe little life and risk the dangers of disease and violence just to help the poor. But from the inside, visions of faces with names and eternal destinies burn in the hearts of those engaged in their mission. And the risk, even the cost, is so small compared to the gain.
A quote I found recently on Pinterest defined a missionary as one who leaves his/her family for a short time, so that others might be with their families for eternity. When only one half of the equation is considered, it seems an unbalanced endeavor tipped heavily on the cost end. But when both sides are considered, the imbalance is tipped generously and extravagantly toward the reward’s side.
The bottom line is this: we who have said yes to Christ have said yes to the mission, the Great Commission. In Matthew 28, before Jesus returned to heaven, He gave His disciples the mission, the purpose they were to live out on the earth: Go and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in His Name and teach them what He has taught us, and do it remembering that He is with us in the assignment. This is not religion. This is a Father’s heart longing so desperately for His children to be with Him and to experience life as He intended it to be, that He was willing to give Himself to make it possible.
We are extensions of that love, of that God Who is a Father with a burning heart for the ones who don’t know they have a home and a family that isn’t broken and disfunctional.
It wasn’t a calling which pertained just to the 12 who stood with Jesus that day. It was, and is, a present reality for all who follow Christ. Following Him means venturing out beyond our comfortable places and out into the world that needs Him, and giving of our time, our talents, our resources, ourselves, until they know that He is real and He is for them, not against them.
It’s not just a job we’ve been given to do. It’s an engraving on the hearts that have become sons and daughters of God.
While this commission, this mission and purpose, may take many different forms and will lead us to many different fields (starting with the one we live in now), the point is really that engaging the mission to reach the world with God’s love is more than just a nice thing to do. It’s more than a suggestion and even more than a religious command. It’s a purpose for which we were created, and a calling for which we are energized and motivated by the love and passion of God.
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, are you living on purpose today? Is God producing in you a heart that longs for others to know Him the way you do? You don’t have to be a super-saint or even a mature believer to know something of God that is worth sharing. Whatever you have received, it was meant to be given away. In giving, you will never lose, but only gain more in Him and of Him. It doesn’t make sense to most people on the outside, but God multiplies what is sown into the mission field: financially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. So we really have nothing to lose.
In fact, I do believe we stand to lose much if we don’t engage with the calling to respond to and step into the Great Commission.
I can only imagine what great things are waiting for the people of the nation this team is going to. And for the team, for my husband, my daughter, and all 15 others who possess the heart of God for the nations, I can only expect a greater passion to burn in their hearts upon returning home. You can’t engage with God in His greatest passion and not be moved somehow.
God’s greatest passion is us – that His family would grow – that His sons and daughters would all be brought home to Him. Scripture says He is not willing for any to perish, to die without Him. So I challenge you today to ask God where or in what ways He might be leading you to reach the people around you with the message of His unfailing, perfect, freeing love. Start there, and before you know it, you will be on your way to other places, because His love tends to spread like wildfire!
May you be encouraged to take hold of the purpose you were created for and begin to live in it. And as you do, may you discover what so many others have – that everything is loss, rubbish, compared to the joys of knowing Him and living out this calling to make Him known to others.