Most days, when I think to myself, “I’m a missionary” I just laugh as if it’s some private joke between me and the Lord. I feel far to “normal” to be a missionary. I don’t mean that in the derogatory way that it sounds! As I see it, missionaries are these incredibly spiritual, brave people that I am nothing like. I just mean that when I think about a missionary my mind immediately thinks of these people:
Jim Elliot – who’s greatest passion was to reach an unreached people group and whose life ended at the end of an Aucan spear.
Gladys Alward – who marched over 100 Chinese orphans to safety over mountains to get them away from the coming onslaught of the attacking Japanese army.
Amy Carmichael – who left her homeland and cared for orphans in
India until her death, having never set eyes on her beautiful again. Ireland
Chet Bitterman – who spent the last week of his life in captivity and was executed at the hands of Colombian guerrilla because he worked to translate scriptures for a local tribe.
These men and women, and hundreds like them, gave up everything – never returning home and losing almost all contact with people that they loved for the rest of their lives. I have a computer, the internet, and a phone. I am in constant contact with people that I love and miss. It may not be as easy as I would like – sometimes the connection is bad and sometimes I get kicked off the internet 4 or 5 times during a conversation, but the point is that I get to do it. I know that I have given up a lot, but the thousands who went before me - they paved the long, dirty road with their blood, sweat, and tears. I do not dare put myself in a category with them.
Yes, I am a missionary and I still find that word comical when applied to my name. I don’t feel like I have done or am doing something great. I am doing what He asked me to do in a place that I love. Despite the horrid heat, smells, and awful dirtiness of this place I feel at home here. I look across the sea of ebony faces each day and I fall more desperately in love with these beautiful people.
I miss people. I miss my church and worshiping with them on a weekly basis. I miss holding my nephew and late night conversations with my sister. I miss laughing with her. I miss
– and I was sure I was never going to say that when I moved there. Although I will always be at home in FL and I will always have precious friends there, I know that chapter has closed and will only appear sporadically in my life now that I live 10,000 miles away. It is always sad to see a chapter in the book of your life close – even when a new, exciting one is about to begin. Florida
And, I have to admit that I am afraid sometimes. A little bit of fear strikes my heart every time the big rat that lives in my pantry runs across my floor. I get paralyzed every time I see one of those big, nasty, African roaches in my kitchen, pantry, or bathroom. Sometimes I feel a little bit of fear as I walk through the city knowing that it wouldn’t take much effort for one of these men to harm me, and there’s not a lot I could do to defend myself. I feel fear at the thought of getting sick in a place where there isn’t good medical care.
Sometimes I’d like to sleep in a bed where the boards didn’t creak every time I moved and where going to the bathroom in the middle of the night didn’t mean unlocking 3 doors and going outside. I wish that the heat wasn’t so oppressive and I didn’t take off wet with sweat, smelly clothes at the end of each day. I’d like to drive my car up to a fast food window and order a burger and a large ice tea. I’d like to throw my clothes in a washing machine – for washing everything you own by hand is a long, hard process.
But more than my fears and wants, is my need to follow Him wherever He calls. I am more afraid of missing His adventure for my life than anything else. I can trust Him – if it means my health, my comfort, or even my life – I know that I can trust Him to be completely good to me. I can trust Him with my tears, my loneliness, and my honest-to-goodness need of a “2am friend.”
On Thursday, the boys were invited to have a special lunch, so we loaded them all up in a van and took them to town. As I climbed into the van, Little Nelson( because we also have a Big Nelson), patted the seat beside him and I knew it was an invitation to form a friendship. Until this point, Nelson and I had only shook hands and greeted each other simply. So I was excited to sit down with him. I reached my arm around him and hugged his little body. Nelson leaned into me, rested him arm on my leg and took my hand. I looked into his smiling face and smiled back and my heart was forever melted. It occurred to me then that someday Nelson would be a grown man and I could hear him saying, “One time there was this white lady who loved me and she taught me about Jesus.” As tears came to my eyes, I knew that if that’s the only thing I accomplished on this earth it would be more than enough. To love Nelson to give him the opportunity to know Jesus – it is worth all my insignificant fears, all the things I miss, and all the things I want.
It’s worth so much that Jesus came and he died. Jesus died for this dirty, smelly place. He died for all the hunger, disease, sadness, loneliness, brokenness, and sin in this world. His heart breaks daily because His children, whom were worthy of His life, go to bed starving, sick, and afraid. People created in His image head into a Christless eternity every moment of every day. I have the capacity to do something about it! No, no not to the 143 million orphans in this world, but to the 25 boys at Casa Re’Om – to the poor in my city – I have the capacity to love, to share, to meet their needs. I can’t turn my back on that need nor pretend it’s not there while enjoying my comfortable American existence. If each of us who claim to love Jesus would do just a wee bit more – less children would go hungry today. Fewer people would be turned away from life saving medical care. More people would drink clean water today. He died because our brokenness and sin was too much for His compassionate heart. So, I open my heart to the “least of these” because it’s what I’ve been asked to do – and because that’s exactly what was done for me. How could I not?