Listening to missionaries share their stories was a major influence on my life as a girl. They were invited to speak at our church during mission emphases, and I’d sit in awe of their unusual clothes or tales of exotic places.
It all seemed so wonderful. Would God call me to such a place?
At the tender age of ten, I did receive the call, and I answered it enthusiastically, walking down to the front to speak to my pastor and share my response. As the church gathered around me afterward, affirming my obedience to God’s call and committing to pray, I had no clue what lay ahead.
None of us do when we hear that still small voice—and it’s a good thing.
It seems only Paul had the insight to see that his road (this one to Jerusalem) would cost his life, while most of us surrender to a Wizard of Oz idea of adventure for the Kingdom. Then, sometimes years later, we step onto the field and realize…
We’re not in Kansas anymore.
For this reason, I’m grateful that there is oftentimes space between the call and the relocation, because in that space—in that margin—God gives us time to grow, learn, and better prepare for what’s ahead. This happens in many different forms, and it looks different for each one of us, but one of the ways I believe God teaches us is through scripture and missionary biographies.
In Scripture, I gain insight into the realities of obedience to God. For each person, called by God, from Abraham to Paul, a separation was required, risks were taken, and opposition was faced. Digging deep into the biblical narratives, even about the lives of more “obscure” persons, such as Moses’s mother, Dorcas, Philip, John Mark, and Titus, have lessons to teach us about faithfulness, restoration, and service.
These were real people who went through real struggles in service.
These are also the lessons we learn in reading biographies of those who have gone before us. Unlike the snippets of life, we get from a speaking engagement or short article, books tend to tell the whole story—the good, the bad, the ugly, of missionary service and life. Without reading their stories, we tend to idolize the saints of the faith.
In reading such books, you’ll realize they were people just like you; they had, along with triumphs, their struggles, doubts, and temptations to walk away. These books also put the task into perspective and remind us that if other fallible people can do this job, we can too. After all, we serve the same great God.
We go through little today which others before us have, in some way, not already experienced.
Struggling in service? Dig deep in God’s word and read books on missionaries to study the lives of the saints who’ve gone before you. Both their successes and failures will inspire and encourage you to press on during the hard days to the glory of God.
Grace and peace