In the summer between my junior and senior year of college, I had the incredible opportunity to spend time in East Asia. It was the first time I’d ever been out of the country, and it was a life-changing summer. I remember being so overwhelmed by how BIG God is… that people on the literal other side of the world were worshipping Him in their own languages and with their own customs was such a sweet realization.
We got to spend a lot of time with some Americans who had been living in this particular city for about a year by the time we arrived, and, who were gearing up for another year-long commitment. There were two women in particular who made such an impression on me; they’d graduated college the year prior to moving overseas and in East Asia they were learning a new language, sharing the gospel with women who had never heard the name ‘Jesus’ before and discipling new believers.
And they were perfectly honest that it was the hardest thing that either of them had ever done.
They shared the incredible things they were seeing God do in the lives of men and women they were working with, and they also shared how difficult their friendship with one another had been over the course of the year. That they’d been really sick as their bodies acclimated to a new country and different foods. That learning a new language often felt impossible. That they missed their friends and family fiercely. That they’d missed some really significant milestones in the lives of people they loved while they were overseas. They didn’t hold back that their year in East Asia had been hard.
But, there was something so appealing about that type of experience, even as hard as it clearly was… because they were seeing God show up, meet needs, draw people to Himself and transform their own personal lives. They were on mission.
That summer changed me and by the grace of God, after much prayer, debate, and counsel, I decided to move to New Zealand after graduation and work with a campus ministry. I had the privilege of living in Hamilton, New Zealand and working at the University of Waikato for 14 months. Fourteen of the most sanctifying, transformational, life-changing months of my life. God used New Zealand to teach me about who He is, who I am, and who He has created me to be in ways that never would have happened in medical school or any other experience I’d considered before deciding on New Zealand.
I also learned a lot about mission. While my primary focus for moving to New Zealand was to share the gospel with students and to disciple believers to help build the local church, it quickly became apparent that the primary focus of God’s agenda was my own sanctification. There were things I needed to see and learn and experience that required me to live outside of my cultural comfort zone. The Lord faithfully provided for each of those lessons, even as He allowed me to be part of students’ stories of learning about who He is.
In the ten plus (!) years since that experience, I’ve thought a lot about “missions.” I’ve wrestled through tough decisions, felt a deep longing to live and work overseas again, and then had to navigate closed doors. I’ve learned that sometimes God’s call for us to be on mission – while rightly focusing on sharing the gospel and making disciples – is often also about my own sanctification.
I haven’t lived overseas since that year after graduating college, but I’ve experienced the mission field of an urban classroom as a high school science teacher. And again, learned that much of the mission God called me to led to my own transformation in learning to be more like Jesus.
The bottom line is that God WILL be glorified. In any country, any culture, and any circumstance. As He brings new sons and daughters into His family, and as He makes sons and daughters more like Jesus.
For some, that happens while they work with people in a foreign country. For others, it happens in their native culture as they walk with Him in the “ordinary” of what they’ve always known. One is not better than the other. One does not give Him more glory. Humble hearts will be sanctified in either situation. People will be introduced to the Savior in either country. God WILL be glorified.
There’s something both encouraging and convicting for me in that reality. Encouraging in that I recognize that I do not need to be living overseas or working as a full-time missionary to be on mission. Convicting to ask myself if I am living that truth.
Am I living on mission in my every day? Do I see the opportunities God is providing all around me? Will I lean into sharing the gospel with a friend? Am I pursuing sanctification on a regular basis as I grow in my relationship with Jesus?
Are you? Do you? Will you?
Let’s remember the call, friends:
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” Matthew 28:18-20
And then let’s get after it. Wherever we are and in whatever we do.