When I was twenty years old I was an honest to goodness missionary. Or I felt like one anyway. I lived and learned overseas for almost a year. I traveled through the interior of South America by hollowed-out log, passing out toys to wide-eyed children who had never seen a white person, and telling unreached people groups about Jesus. I survived on funds I had raised through friends and family who supported my cause. I used wet wipes to clean myself when we stayed in river villages where the water was too treacherous to bathe in. Heck, I didn’t even shave my legs for like five months at one point. I watched my host suffer through malaria. I sat on a log in the middle of the jungle talking with a Muslim man about why I was fasting. But most importantly, I loved on people. So many people.
When my time in Guyana was complete, and my discipleship training came to an end, I watched my fellow missionaries share their next step. So many had been called to foreign mission fields, to spread the gospel to those who had never heard it, and to survive on faith and friend-raising. I was happy for them, but honestly, perhaps a little questioning of myself. Despite my feeling that I too should desire to do grand yet difficult adventures, the fact was I did not feel called to some foreign land to share about Jesus. I just didn’t.
Yesterday morning my husband shared a text message he had received from a young man who used to work for him. I had always enjoyed watching their relationship blossom. My husband was the type of man who was quiet yet kind. He didn’t speak loudly for all to hear, but when he spoke you knew it was important and packed with wisdom. He had a big heart. That was what drew me to him. Subsequently it drew others as well. People enjoyed to be around him, once they got to know him, and he used that gift in good ways, never taking it for granted. He spoke friendly to strangers always, and he shared a wealth of information to those around him, but he did it in a comfortable way that made you feel like you were sharing with a good friend, not being preached at. He had a gift for cultivating relationships, and then teaching and mentoring them based on his personal walk with the Lord.
Tears came to my eyes as I read the text from his former “work son” who was now making his way in the world. He spoke of how much he missed their talks, and the life lessons and conversations on faith. He let him know that he thought frequently about the things my husband had shared, and he used the advice daily. I cried with pride and thanksgiving to serve on the daily mission field of life with a man who showed people Jesus by showing them his heart. His life was his witness, his humility a welcome home sign, and he took every single opportunity and interaction that came his way as a chance to be the hands and feet of Christ. He was one of the best missionaries I knew.
Twenty years ago when I was faced with the decision of whether to come back to the United States or stay on the foreign mission field I knew in my heart where God was leading me. He was leading me not just back home, but to one of the most unvisited mission fields out there. Daily life. The fact is you don’t have to get on a plane and go around the world to tell people about Jesus, and we all know that, yet when it comes to sharing Christ with our neighbor we’re hesitant. It’s not just about inviting a buddy to church on Sunday. It’s actually about being the church. We are all, as believers, temples of the Holy Spirit. God lives in us, and our job is to pour that out on those around us. You don’t have to hand out tracts or have a Bible study on the job site. It starts simply with being love, showing that love, and creating relationships out of love. God seems to open up doors for all the rest of it.
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
This is the verse that comes to mind when we think of missions, but more often we also think of traveling to fulfill this verse. I consider this verse a calling, but it’s not just a calling to go to some distant mission field. The words “all the world” also mean next door, at work, or in line at the grocery store. We are called to preach the gospel by our daily interaction with every person we meet. So when it says “all creation” it even means the people who disagree with you, don’t think the same way as you, or live a different lifestyle than you. It starts with a smile, it continues with an example, and it comes to fulfillment through relationship. Just honest to goodness loving on people. Lots of people.