I THINK GOD WANTS ME TO BE A MISSIONARY
ISSUES TO DEAL WITH LONG BEFORE YOU SAY GOOD-BYE!
One: Who’s Good Enough to Go?
Two: But I Don’t Feel Called
Three: Now Why Did I Do That?
Four: The Challenge
Five: Counting the Cost
Seven: The Heart of One Who Goes
I would like to retell a story told by a friend of mine. He told it often. Not because it was a success story. It wasn’t. But because it was so unbelievable! Unexpected! He told it as if he was still trying to convince himself that it had really happened.
For a number of years it was he who made the final decision for missionaries going to the field through a particular mission agency. Thousands of dollars had already been spent in training each family—training in the Word, training in the culture, training in family and peer relationships. Physical exams. Psychological evaluations. Spiritual readiness. Financial support. Prayer support. Their references were impeccable. All was in order.
He interviewed the whole family individually and as a group. They had the moral support of their church and extended family and friends. They were ready to go, he was sure. By his word, they now had the full support of their agency.
Bags were packed; passports were current; visas were in hand. Tickets were purchased. All loose ends at home were nicely tied up by their logistic support team. The final gala, good-bye parties were held. Bon Voyage!
They were in the air! Headed for a new adventure for Christ in a region they had prayed about. They had studied its history and current events. They had listened to tapes to prepare their ears for a new language.
They landed in the capitol city of their host country. As they gathered their bags, they looked around. All was strange. Yes, there was the driver who would take them to the guesthouse. He had held up a sign with their names on it—spelled incorrectly, but what a welcome sight, anyway. He was helping them with their bags, but his English at best was difficult to understand. It was hot and humid. It had been a long journey. They were sleep deprived and bloated on the free soda and salty pretzels and their deodorant was no longer protecting them. The smells of their bodies merged with the smells of a foreign land, producing an unsavory aroma. The noise of an unknown language mounted around them, piercing their ears. The family members looked at each other for some reassurance. There was none. Each in his own little world was thinking, “What in the world have we done?”
The bags had been gathered. The driver was ready to take them out to the van. But, just a moment, please. The family huddled. There was a buzz of discussion. Then there was agreement. They would return home! They did not even leave the airport lounge. They went to the ticket counter, booked a flight and waited. They returned home!
What happened? What went wrong? Had they not considered the seriousness of this mission? Had their church leadership not taken the time to prayerfully consider their recommendations? Had their prayer team not been aware of the spiritual warfare they would likely face? What happened? What went wrong?
These and many others are the questions asked by missionaries, their friends and those agencies which send them. Admittedly, all missions are not so quickly truncated. But far too many believers find out too late that they should not have gone to the mission field in the first place….
In this writing, we are going to give you an opportunity to deal with a number of issues that you should clearly think through in the very early stages of missionary preparation. But not only you. By now you should have a group of people—friends and relatives—who are dialoguing with you and with the Lord on these tough issues. You should be beginning the development of your partnership team.
The setting of this story is Middletown, USA. It is not Uptown—so sophisticated, so proper, so perfect. Nor is it Downtown, where all is drab and old and rundown. It is Middletown. Middletown, USA. It is where we can make mistakes and not be despised. Yet, where, when we do make mistakes, we don’t hide behind the façade of mirror-glassed buildings of uptown, nor behind the broken windows of despair, downtown.
Let’s meet four young people who believe that God wants them to be a missionary:
Kevin’s parents had divorced when he was in the eighth grade. He knew things were not right between them, even though they kept it pretty much behind their closed door. But Dad was seldom home. His flight schedule seemed to include many overnights in other cities. Kevin tumbled into a troublesome four years in high school. His mom remarried early in his senior year. But the man did not (maybe could not) become a good father to Kevin. He remained his mother’s husband.
Kevin is now in his final months at a Christian college in the big city, about a half hour’s drive from Middletown. Though he could have commuted—his mom wanted him to, Kevin chose to live on campus. He was sure her husband preferred that. But he has come home on the week-ends—some of them, anyway. He wanted to remain connected to his church, though it usually only meant Sunday morning. Once in a while he got in on a Saturday activity; for special speakers, he even stayed for Sunday evening.
Grades came very easy for Kevin, so he was able to fully enjoy several of the extra-curricular activities on campus. He loves soccer. He tried out for the team—twice, but he had not made the cut—either time. The activity he enjoyed the most was tutoring three international students. Taiwo’s English was marginal. He needed the most help. And it was obvious that he appreciated Kevin’s help. At the end of every session, Taiwo would assure Kevin that his parents would invite Kevin to his home when he returned to Nigeria. He had learned that Taiwo’s name meant the “firstborn of twins.” Kevin’s prayer is that when Taiwo returns to Nigeria, he will be a godly witness to his brother who has chosen the path of Islam.
Kevin had brought the three men home with him one weekend. It was a bit awkward. Though the church is solid in its teaching on world evangelization, it had not yet sent anyone, nor had they captured the opportunity to minister to internationals who live in Middletown. Maybe one or two families of foreign heritage came to the church on a regular basis. So, you can imagine, when Kevin walked in with three huge men, with skin as black as midnight, it caused quite a stir, and some serious embarrassment. Kevin realized—too late—that he probably should have given the church advanced notice!
But, over the next months, a lot is going to change in this Middletown church—and particularly in the life of Kevin Metzger.
Helen is a fine young lady, maturing with poise and a deep love for her Lord. She has been home schooled since kindergarten. Her parents had made that choice even before she was born. Neither she nor they have ever regretted it, though at times it was trying—on both her and them. Helen has learned the disciplines of diligence, commitment and critical thinking, and has developed a positive outlook on life. Her worldview was greatly enhanced by having experienced one semester of her junior year on the sailing yacht, Endeavor. The ship called at many ports in the Mediterranean Sea. Her studies focused on the ancient and modern cultures, governments and languages of several nations.
Her love for music birthed a desire to play the piano and then the organ. She often plays the organ prelude at her church, but her greatest joy is to fill their home with melodies of her own creation.
As her graduation from high school approaches, she is practicing a particularly difficult composition she has been asked to perform. But even as she tries to concentrate on that final arpeggio, other thoughts are forcing their way into her mind. Thoughts about what she believes God wants her to do before launching into her next four years of formal education.
Jason is a carefree, happy-go-lucky young man about to graduate from high school. His thought: Never too soon! Actually, let’s be honest, deep inside there is a very serious heart for God. Sometimes, though, words just come out of his mouth before he engages his brain, if you know what I mean. Don’t get me wrong. A little maturing will take care of that issue. We’ll see a fine young man emerging.
School? Yes, as I said—a necessity. But, motocross! Jason dreams—day and night—about motocross. He draws pictures of them on, in and around every class notebook. His favorite one shows the rider high off the seat, bike in mid-air, just having come off a triple jump. Pictures of fancy bikes, mud-crusted bikes, dirty bikes, bikes with and without riders line the walls and doors and windows of his bedroom. He started a parade of bikes down the hallway, but Dad said, “Turn those bikes around and get them back into your room!” Did Jason own one? No. He rode a beat-up ten-speed. But he talked and dreamed motocross.
That is, until…one day!
Kyle is just graduating from a local secular college with a major in English. He is a good student. But he has to work hard for his grades. He has held down a 20-hour a week job to help pay expenses. He’s lived at home. That’s helped a lot. With expenses, that is. As a college senior it has been a bit trying to still be under his parents’ roof. But they have talked things out, for the most part. They have watched their only child grow into a fine young man. And have given him the space to mature.
Because it tied in so well with his English major, Kyle had been able to squeeze out the time to work on the campus newspaper. Several times he had been able to write solid Christian witness into his articles. Less overtly, but possibly of greater value, he believed that his Christian lifestyle had had an impact on the other staff members.
A relationship has been developing with Melanie, a young lady from his church. Just when they realized it was more than just friends, neither of them can remember. But for some time there has been an unspoken agreement that wedding bells are in their future.
But one Sunday evening…
Middletown is where we can discover truth and live in it. And that is what we want to do as we enter the lives of these four young people as they discuss their issues with their pastors and friends. Let’s listen in.