Do you remember that old track from Hillsong?
“I will never be the same again. I can never return, I’ve closed the door. I will walk the path, I’ll run the race. And I will never be the same again.”
I can never forget the moment I realized that it was possible for me to become a missionary.
It was August of 1996. Charlie and I had come to Kenya as volunteers, teaching missionary kids during the day, while their parents attended meetings. All of these folks were new missionaries to East Africa in their first term of service. Most had been on the field an average of two years.
Every day we played with and taught some of the best kids on the planet. At night, we listened as our heroes told stories about their life and work. As each one spoke, I kept thinking, “That is what I want to do.” I felt moved, even called, but so unqualified.
After dinner, everyone would gather at little tables located outside the dining room in the main building. “Uncle Mikes” was a place for these folks to hang out, play cards or board games and unwind while reconnecting with friends. Near the steps to the side entrance, I had a conversation that changed my life.
I stood listening as one of the parents talked about missions and serving. As she spoke with a smile, I had a sudden revelation that these were ordinary people. God used this woman, whom I now call my friend, to show me that I could be a missionary; that these are not some special category of persons that are born with a supernatural talent. Rather, they are just plain folk who love God, hear a calling, and desire more than anything to be obedient to that call.
It is popular now to say that all Christians are missionaries. I can’t agree. While everyone is called to bear witness and bear fruit, not everyone is called to “go” and “going” is what being a “sent one” means. We all evangelize, disciple, give, serve, teach or whatever our gifting is; at least I hope we do. But moving to a new place, far away, among a people who are not like you, may not like you, and probably don’t speak your language, is a different animal altogether. Like any vocational ministry, it must be done with sincere prayer, with support from a body of believers, with appropriate training and education, and a call from the Lord you serve.
A whim and a plane ticket can get you there; but there are times when only a calling will keep you there. “If it bugs you in America, it will elephant you in Africa,” was a truth I would learn at a later time.
Before we ever arrived in Kenya that summer of ’96, I had been wrestling with this calling. I couldn’t see how it could work, how I could be ‘that person’. But while having a simple conversation with another woman, I suddenly saw God’s possibilities for my life flung wide open and I knew I could answer ‘yes’ to His command. God bless Kenya and God bless my friend for helping me to understand His ways.
I will never be the same again.