Friday, January 23, 2009

How Were You "Called" to be a Missionary?

The Christian use of the word “called” is elusive. Christians use it to explain why they don’t do something: “I wasn’t called to do that,” or they use it to justify a choice that they’ve made.

But what does it really mean to be called? I think a lot of people assume it is a feeling, a “peace,” or even more dramatic like a dream or vision. But in Scripture, that happens only very rarely.

Gil and I did not become missionaries because of a dream, vision, sign, or a feeling of peace. In fact, I would venture to say that we have felt a lot of rather “unpeaceful” feelings in our journey. Obeying God does not always bring feelings of peace.

Our “call” started with:
1. A commitment and love and passion for the Great Commission—to see all peoples in all nations come to know Christ, and a willingness to go wherever God leads.
2. A desire for God to use our unique gifts, talents, and place in life in the most strategic way possible for His kingdom.

That’s it. All there is to it. Basically, the way every Christian everywhere should live. I’m not saying, of course, that God “calls” every Christian to live overseas. But God “calls” every Christian to the two statements above.

During our first two years in Tanzania (2001-2003), we had no idea where we would spend our lives. God had given me a love for Africa (I spent 6 formative years in Liberia and Ethiopia as a child), and Gil a love of other cultures, especially in the third world. But that’s all the direction we had.

During those two years, I was teaching 5th and 6th grade at HOPAC. Gil was involved in another ministry, but filled in as a Bible teacher for a couple classes when there was a need. He discovered that not only did he love teaching the Bible more than he loved anything else, but also that he was incredibly good at it. The school’s director started recruiting Gil to come back and be the chaplain at HOPAC. We went back to the States, Gil got his MA in theology, and the rest is history.

How do we know God called us here?

1. HOPAC’s ministry is strategic in the kind of kids it is reaching and the kind of families it is helping.
2. There was a big need at HOPAC for a chaplain and full-time Bible teacher, both of which the school had never had before we came.
3. The ministry perfectly fit with our gifts, talents, vision, desires, etc.
4. Our vision was totally in agreement with the leadership of the school.

Does this sound overly logical and not very “feely?” Well, it is. There have been many times when we wrestled with God over this. It is not always easy; it is not always fun; there is a lot of heartache involved. But isn’t that the case with any calling in life? However, there is immense joy that comes from knowing we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing, and that we are in a place and situation in life where we fit perfectly. Doesn’t get much better than that.
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