As many of you already know, after a lot of prayer and seeking God’s will, I will be leaving Students International at the end of May, when my three-year term ends. It certainly wasn’t an easy decision, but God has confirmed in small and big ways that this is part of His purpose and plan.
Ending chapters is a time of reflection, of looking back. What has God taught me about myself, about the world, about His love? What have I learned? What have I ‘unlearned’?
One question I find myself grappling with is this: What is Missions? I know, I know, I am a ‘missionary’ so you’d think I’d know what my job is!
But, think about it for a minute. Is it really so simple and straightforward?
I am sitting in a friend’s house sharing a cup of coffee. She is a Christian, and we are talking about her father who recently broke his foot. Is this Missions?
I am sitting in a friend’s house in a poor community in the Dominican Republic. She is a Christian and a Dominican, and we are talking in Spanish about her father who recently broke his foot. Is it missions now?
What if it was a friend of the same ethnicity and language as me, and we were in the United States in her big, fancy house, drinking $20/lb Kona coffee? Is this Missions? How about if this friend was not a Christian? Now is it Missions?
What if a doctor is operating on patients in a ‘third-world’ country without good medical care? He makes sure they get the best quality care possible, but because they come to him unconscious, he is not sharing the Gospel. Is this Missions?
It gets even more complicated because everyone has an opinion of what is, and is not missions. For some, it involves the materially poor. For others, crossing cultures. Some feel that without a Gospel presentation, it is not missions. Others, that helping to relieve felt needs is required.
Friends who have just come onto staff here have shared with Carlos and me some of what is happening in many churches in the US, specifically the eroding of belief that the Bible has any authority and that anyone can claim to know absolute truth. I have half-jokingly said that perhaps we are meant to go back to be missionaries there. Will that be Missions?
Did Jesus consider Himself a missionary? On the one hand, He left His Heavenly home to enter into our world. But, He was also fully human, born into a specific time and place and culture. Minus a few interactions with ‘foreigners’ He mainly focused on people from His same culture and language.
At times He was out there healing the sick and preaching about the Kingdom of God. At other times He withdrew, excluding the ‘needy’ and spending His time teaching a handful of disciples. Was some of His ministry then, ‘mission work’ and other parts not?The Gospels do not portray Jesus as someone who was unsure of His role. He didn’t seem worried about what others thought about Him. He didn’t fret about what parts of His life were, and were not, meeting others’ definitions of a Messiah.
Instead, Jesus concerned Himself with being obedient to fulfilling His Father’s will. Whether that meant dining with a rich tax collector, multiplying bread and fish, or washing filthy, smelly feet.
What is Missions? I still have a long way to go in discovering the answer. Maybe part of that is simply accepting the fact that it is more complicated than I previously thought. And, helping others to understand that truth as well.
One thing I do know, and that is I move forward, not in my power and understanding, but in trust and faith that He is the One who will see His plan and purpose accomplished.
I pray I will be faithful, not to a ‘mission’ whatever that may mean, but to Jesus Christ. That I will be faithful to share the hope I have in Him. In whatever language and culture, in whatever circumstance, in whatever season in which I find myself.