How does one define “the mission field”? Is it a place that is on another continent? Is it somewhere that I am not used to being? Does it have to be a foreign land? Must it be a nation where the lifestyle is very different from my own, where the language and food and culture are unfamiliar to me? Does “the mission field” have to be poor? Or hot? Or a long way from home?
For my grandparents, missionaries sent to the fields of India and China, the term was quite specific – the mission field was a foreign land unreached by the Gospel, and one from which you may never return. My father, seen here on his 80th birthday, was born in India, raised in China, then interned as a POW by the Japanese when war broke out. I will never understand, no matter how I try, the cost that he, his parents and sister counted to be on the mission field all those years ago. He has kept a sweet spirit and a gentle, forgiving nature despite all that he went through. Now there’s a big clue to the thesis that follows…
I am a product of a Christian family and I have sensed that “missionary calling” – whatever it may be - pulsing in my veins for most of my life. Now I live in Mozambique and the longer I live here, the broader my definition becomes.
I have worked in a variety of jobs over the years – teaching, church administration, retail, nannying, waitressing... My very first job as a teenager? “Hello, this is St Ives Sports and Toys. Can I help you?” said of course in the most grown-up tone a fifteen-year-old can muster.
As I mentally retrace the timeline of my life, I can detect few patterns, many unexpected detours, loads of unfulfilled dreams and much boredom interspersed with very occasional bouts of excitement and fulfilment. It was during those rare seasons of delight that I received a tiny taste of all that I was hoping for and felt the heightened tension between the now and the not-yet. I knew that I knew that something bigger and better and more wonderful was just around the corner. But what was it and how would I get there? Was it... wait for it... drum roll please... “the mission field”?
I am a dreamer. I always have been. I have longed and hoped and dreamed big all my life. When people tell me to dream bigger, I laugh because I cannot imagine what bigger is. Perhaps that is what God means when he talks about the “exceeding abundantly more than all we can ask or imagine...” But bigger than MY dreams? Is that really possible?
Then it dawns on me. Of course it is not possible. If it were possible, I would have been there a long time ago. It also dawns on me that, if I had been able to find my own way there, in my own timing, I would not have coped with what I found when I arrived. I would have enjoyed the view for just a moment then choked to death on all the circumstances I was not yet equipped to deal with.
I look back now and the pattern finally becomes clear, the common denominator in all my jobs and relationships and trials and joys and sorrows – everything has been a preparation for now. And now is a preparation for what comes next. So even here, living in Mozambique, the quintessential “mission field” for the hard-core “missionary”, I still feel that tension between the now and the not-yet.
You see, all these years were not a preparation for the mission field. They were preparation for discovering greater depths of the heart of Jesus. Plumbing those depths will never, ever end because the heart of Jesus is bottomless and the goodness of His will for the earth unending.
I do not belong on the mission field. I belong in the perfect will of God.
If I am in the perfect will of God, doing all that He asks me to do, then I have found my mission field, no matter where in the world I am. I happen to live in Mozambique because, for now, this is where God needs me to be - for what I can give and also for what He wants me to receive.
Somehow, in God’s economy, giving and growing go hand-in-hand. The more I give, the more I grow. He has placed me, in every season of my life, in exactly the spot He has wanted me to be. Now, here in this nation so rich with possibilities and so desperate for breakthroughs, I receive so much more than I can give no matter how fast I try to pour myself out on the needs around me. This is the perfect economy of God.
I love that God has brought me here and that I am in His perfect will. I love the mission field in which He has planted me for now. Not because it is easy (it is not). Not because it is fulfilling (it is occasionally). Not because I get to pour out all that I am (some days yes, some days all I want to do is hide away and pretend I am somewhere else).
I still dream. I still search for ways in every day to express my passions. I still sense that heightened tension between the now and the not-yet. The difference now is that, instead of stepping out on my own to fight my way into the future, I am trusting God to lead me there one day at a time, via the mission fields of His choosing, where I am needed and where I need to be.
He is teaching me to squeeze all the possibilities out of each of the days between the now and the not-yet.
So, what does your mission field look like? Where is it? And when, oh when, will you get there?
If you are able to say that you are following God the best way you know how, obeying His voice one whisper at a time, and that tomorrow you plan to do the same, then look around you and take a deep breath.
You’re standing in it.
You can call me a missionary if you like, but only if you are willing to use the term for yourself as well. I am a simple Christian woman doing my best to live God’s way, one day at a time. I am no more nor less valuable to the Kingdom than anyone else. Today I will give of myself, as you will. And today I will pray that I grow a little more in grace and patience and wisdom, as I pray for you also.
Yes, I live in a nation full of needs. So do you. Together, let us walk through another day serving God the best way we know how, encouraging one another in the work of the mission field in which each of us is planted for now.
The harvest is plentiful in your field and in mine, so let’s get to work.