Tuesday, August 29, 2017

When a mission trip leads to a missionary call

I’m very thankful to Moody Publishers for all they have done for the kingdom in general, and for me specifically. The Lord saved me through some dramatic and traumatic life events when I was 24 years old. As a new believer, I had no idea how to get started in my walk with Christ and grow as a disciple. I soon found out about Moody Bible Institute correspondence courses and studied through a couple of them, beginning my Christian life and an abiding love of Bible study at the same time. Later, Moody published my first two English books: The Missionary Call: Find Your Place in God’s Plan for the World and Reaching and Teaching: A Call to Great Commission Obedience.

2018 marks ten years since the publication of The Missionary Call, and I am thrilled to announce that Moody Publishers is releasing a Tenth-Anniversary edition next year. I have been re-reading the original manuscript in preparation for updating it to include global developments and trends over the last decade. As I did so, I was reminded of many missionaries who have related how this book impacted them as they heard and answered their missionary call.

I am also thankful for the missions pastors, mission agencies, and missionaries who recommend The Missionary Call to those seeking to know and do the will of God for their life in missions. The following is an excerpt that I want to share for you who may have gone on your first mission trip this summer.

Your first mission trip

When people share what they believe their missionary calling to be, I love to ask, “Where did you go on your first mission trip?” It is common to meet people who feel called to the place where they went on their first mission trip. Sometimes, this is due to the warmth and friendliness of their missionary “guides.” Missionaries regularly serve as cultural guides to the country, interpreters, drivers, bodyguards, and flesh-and-blood illustrations of missionary life. Spending time with missionary families, listening to the missionary kids speaking two or more languages over a meal, learning about the sacrifices these families have made to be missionaries, and the overwhelming ways that God blesses them in the process are major influences in the life of the visitor.

The first time out of your country can be a frightening experience; everything that was normal to your everyday life is disappearing with the USA shoreline behind the plane as it climbs to cruising altitude. You wonder what the food will be like and whether the candy bars you stashed in your suitcase will be enough to get you through two weeks out of the country. You mentally rehearse the list of dos and don’ts that the missionary gave you: don’t drink the water but do eat what they give you in homes—accompanied by the missionary prayers, “Lord, I’ll put it down if you’ll keep it down!” and, “Where He leads me I will follow, what He feeds me I will swallow.”

However, the nervousness turns to delight as the missionaries collect you and your team, take you to a comfortable hotel, and supply you with water and rest. On your first trip out of the hotel, you are wide-eyed and marveling at the beauty of the country, the suicidal traffic rules, the devastating poverty, the hopelessness in the eyes of the beggars, and the warm friendliness of the nationals at church. Adjusting to life there requires a learning curve that goes virtually straight up.

Every day of the first week fills your journal with firsts. The first time you ate durian—and the last, by the way! The first time you communicated with someone who did not speak your language by simply pointing at your favorite verses in your Bible and finding them in his, and vice versa. The first time you sang “Victory in Jesus” by reading the words phonetically in a language you did not know so you could make a joyful noise. The first time you crossed a river in a dugout canoe to get to church in the jungle. The first time in a church service where a fight broke out between two dogs that had been sleeping under the pews. You will never forget the first time a family grandmother knelt and washed your feet to thank you for bringing the gospel message to her village—never.

At the end of your short-term trip, you head to the airport to return to your “normal” life, only it does not seem quite as normal as it did. Your heart breaks as you get on the plane and leave behind new believers, disciples who have not been discipled, and brothers, sisters, and friends. Somewhere on the trip home, you realize that your life will never be the same again. You want to come back again and serve God among these people. You want to learn their language and life, their culture and customs, and their love for food and fun. You know that God is calling you to be a missionary in this place, to these people, for His glory. Then, you realize something else: you never touched your candy bars.

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