I’ve heard quite a few times that people couldn’t possibly do what I do or that they just aren’t meant to be missionaries. Now, I’m going to ask you, for just a short moment, to ask yourself, “What if I am wrong? What if I am meant to be a missionary?” You’ve probably already listed forty-thousand reasons why you’re not meant to be a missionary and why it’s a stupid thing to even think about. But just let me briefly explain why it could be at least worth considering.
I haven’t been called…
Yes, this is an important one (and somewhat messy and confusing in terms of what it actually means). But the question to this one is how do you know that? If you have got a clear calling for where you are right now, then, yes, you are probably right… for now.
However, if you don’t know without actually knowing, you might just be wrong. One day, my dad was serving turkey and pheasant for my grandparents. My grandmother instantly said she just wanted the turkey because she doesn’t like pheasant. We asked if she had ever tried it, to which she replied “No, I just know I don’t like it.” We all laughed and said that she should at least try a bit. Saying you haven’t been called without considering it is a bit like that. How can you be certain without actually exploring the idea? Exploring the possibility of something then realising it isn’t for you is not wrong. However, closing your mind to the possibility of what God actually has planned for you is disobedience. You’re on a ship to Tarshish, but, unlike Jonah, you don’t actually realise.
I know it can be confusing. It might be because we hear stories of God calling missionaries when they were just out of the womb and were clearly destined to go overseas. Or sometimes, we hear of stories of spectacularly clear and surprising commands to go somewhere particular. However, this is not often the case and it wasn’t for me. I had no inkling that God wanted me to come to Cambodia or even to become a missionary until I asked Him. I had always thought I would be in the UK until I died (except maybe a year in France or somewhere similar just to be extremely middle-class). Then I listened to some missionary speakers and thought, “Oh, maybe I should at least ask God if that’s his plan.” So I prayed and asked. He answered and here I am.
I couldn’t give up what I have
If you’re thinking about your house, car, job and worldly possessions, you’re possibly in for a bit of a shock because of what I am going to say next. You probably shouldn’t become a missionary simply because you might not believe in what the Bible says. Unfortunately, the Bible is very clear that we are not to cling onto worldly things but be willing to offer them for God’s service.
Remember, it was the rich man’s unwillingness to give up everything he had that resulted in Jesus saying it would be difficult for him to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (see Matthew 19:16-24). We often say we are willing to give up everything, but unless you’ve actually asked God if he wants you to, it might just be all talk.
Now, before we go any further, I would like to add that often being a missionary doesn’t mean giving up all home comforts. In fact, my home is amazing. Both the bedrooms have en suite bathrooms; I live near a beautiful lake. I have been able to buy beautiful furniture and accessories. I have a nice motorbike. I have a fridge, air con, washing machine. For many missionaries, the standard of living is very comfortable. So, in your willingness and obedience to offer God what you have, you may find yourself with blessings you did not expect. I’d be a complete hypocrite if I painted a picture that I was a typical missionary martyr. My life is great! God gives us great things to enjoy. But He does not give them to us for us to cling to and squeeze the life out of.
Of course, I do also have the realisation that this might not be forever. I may end up in some remote location, with few amenities and with more difficult conditions. Many missionaries find themselves in these situations. But God is good and faithful even in the midst of harder living conditions.
What about my family?
Leaving family behind can be really hard. Also, the uncertainties of bringing a young family onto the mission field can be complex. This is certainly something, as Kristi and I start our own family, we will have to navigate (but not for a few years yet).
However, God can be trusted with our families. He knows so much better than we do what is good for us and our loved ones. If I didn’t come to Cambodia, I would not have a wife. God knew about my situation and He cared about me having family whilst I was pursuing His call for my life.
Furthermore, a bit after the “camel through the eye of a needle” comment, Jesus makes this statement:
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.Matthew 19:29
I know that I may never own a house. I left my brother, nieces and parents in the UK. I’ve never owned any fields, but I did leave a very stable and relatively well-paid career as a teacher. But God has provided me with Cambodian friends that have become as close as brothers, and Cambodian nephews to ease the hurt of not seeing my nieces grow up first-hand. This promise can be relied on.
Trust God with your family and your situation. He is so faithful and so good.
I’ve made other plans/dreams/ambitions
If you’ve become a Christian and you’ve submitted your life to the lordship of Christ, you’ve also submitted your dreams and plans to him. So, quite frankly, it’s not up to you. But, on the plus side, God’s plans for you are so much better than your plans. I’m not saying His plans might not involve suffering and pain, but they are still good.
Even 10 years ago, if you had asked me what my future plans were, I’d have said probably living in the UK, teaching. I’d have a house with a cute garden and my life would look quintessentially English. I’d have never, ever considered Cambodia. But God knew what was best and I love it. If God calls me somewhere else now, I would be utterly heart-broken. However, I’d have to remind myself that God was good enough to give me Cambodia, so whatever was next is a part of His perfect will too.
I’ve got nothing to offer
Every person that God uses in the Bible has very little to actually offer. They are always the youngest in the smallest family of the smallest tribe of Israel. Or they have a speech impediment or some other reason that they should not be God’s immediate choice. Remember King Saul? He was pretty much the tallest and most handsome person in Israel. But he was a rubbish king. Remember Mary however? She was a teenage girl from a remote town in an area where everyone was considered a bit dim-witted. She was a faithful servant of God.
Consider also the widow’s offering at the temple. She gave what she had, even though it was so small. However, Jesus considered this offering the the piles of wealth rich people added. Give what you can, even if you don’t think it is much.
What to do now
- Pray for faith and trust. Ask God to help you trust Him with your situation, whether that’s finances, family, health, work, etc.
- Submit and humble yourself. Remind yourself that He is God of the universe. He is well within His rights to ask anything of you. However, remember that He is also a good and generous God. Offer that you have to Him.
- Ask him. Tell God that you are willing to go wherever or do whatever He asks of you. Ask God if He wants you to become a missionary or go to go somewhere. (I asked God to tell me where to go, and He did.) Let God know you are open to receiving signs and direction in your life.
- Watch this space. It may that you are not called to be a missionary but instead to support mission in another way, through faithfully praying for a missionary (such as me) or financial supporting a missionary or mission organisation. He may speak to you about how to serve your local church, local area or even other organisations too.
- Speak to other missionaries! Get in touch with mission organisations or even send me a few messages! I’m happy to help.
- Act on it but be patient too. Sometimes, the plan that God reveals to you might not be for straight away. However, keep pursuing it, walking faithfully and with the faith that God knows what He is doing.