Saturday, January 18, 2014

Letters to a New Missionary: Lighting the Fire

Dear New Missionary,

I was sitting at my Wycliffe booth in the foyer of the college auditorium and not paying a lot of attention, probably trying to write a few more thank you notes. It was missions week at your school, but by now most students had scattered to their classes, and I could hear a few musicians warming up in the practice rooms on the other side of the hall. It was quiet.

And then you came. You sat down next to me with your list of questions, and I was amazed at your insight, your eagerness to prepare for this path God had called you.

As we neared the end of our discussion, you glanced back at me, one last question. “Earlier, I listened to the chapel speaker, a missionary, and he spent all this time describing the heartache and pain and suffering and disasters that befallen him and his family. And then he ends his discussion with a huge smile and shouts, “you too should become a missionary!” You shook your head in amazement. “How can he do that?!”

Indeed! How can he do that? How can I do it? I wonder so many times, whether it’s trying to scoop up a new food on my spoor or eying the giant spider in the shower stall or trying to find the right words in my limited language skills to share God’s truth or saying goodbye again and again. Of course, we are commanded to it, and quite frankly, I find the whole overseas experience to be plain ole fun.

But that’s not enough.

How can he? Because God has lit a fire in His heart, and to not do it is either to be consumed by the flames or to shiver from trying to escape from them. For when God calls you to it, He enables you for it and gives you deepest joy in it.

And to stand with Him in the heart of the fire, allowing Him to use you despite your shortcomings and your failings to love and reach the people that He died for, well, that’s glorious, because at that moment it’s not about you and what you can do and where you can go and what you left behind. It never was. Because all that pain and agony (which ultimately marks every life walking in this fallen world), while wretched and real and worth every tear, seems to dim before Him and before that fire. And one day, those tears will dry, and you will stand with Him in joy and not just see the fruits of how He used your life, but see Him, the One who molded and sanctified and drew you to Himself in that life.

That’s how he can—or at least, how I can.

And that’s how you can, my friend.

Together, we stared out the windows across the foyer, no more words, and I wondered what you were thinking or if I completely terrified you from ever venturing onto the mission field. Campus was starting to wake again as students slung backpacks over one shoulder and two curly-haired girls chattered in a corner. You too reached down for your bag, then looked up at me, smiled and gave me a slow nod.

And I realized that the fire had been lit in you too.