I have been thinking and praying about missions a lot the past few weeks. I am going to be going to Malawi on June 1st as a short-term missionary. While there the team I am with will spend time drilling a safe well and fixing other wells that are having issues. We will also be able to evangelize to the community. Because of this trip I have spent many hours in prayer and fasting over this trip and the idea of Missions.
I was raised in the church and have listened to many missionaries who came from Africa, Asia, or South America. They always have photos of sad and hurting kids. Seeing that sadness pulled on my heartstrings and brought me to tears at times. I used to think it was such a great thing being a missionary and maybe SOMEDAY I would be able to be a missionary.
As I grew up, missionaries continued to come to the church and continued to show photos of hurting people. I continued to believe someone I would have the chance to be a missionary. When I was 17 I had the opportunity to travel to South Africa and evangelize to many people there. I had finally been able to experience and be a missionary. After the two-week trip was over I had many great memories and my desire to help people had grown. However, I simply went back to my school and community with a slightly different outlook on life, but nothing changed in my life.
Years pasted and I continued to see others coming and going with their stories of missions and one of my childhood friends became a full-time missionary in Bolivia running an orphanage. That desire to help the hurting continued to grow, but I remained the same. I didn’t realize my perspective of what a missionary is was wrong. If you are like me you probably have a misconstrued perspective of what missions is and who is a missionary.
Last year while I have in seminary God revealed to me what it truly means to be a missionary. In the past few weeks this understanding has continued to grow in my heart and life. There are four mission fields found in the Bible.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
This little verse from Acts has a lot to it. beginning with the background this is the last thing Jesus said before He ascended into heaven after His resurrection. That alone gives this a lot of weight. There are many who debate and preach about what Jesus meant by “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” Many also preach “you will be my witnesses,” this is also beneficial, but I want to focus on the four places Jesus mentioned. These four places I believe are mission fields we have been called to.
Let me pause for a minute!
You may be thinking…Jesus said to be His witnesses isn’t that evangelism?
That is correct, but the definition of missionary from dictionary.com is
A person sent by a church into an area to carryon evangelism or other activities, as educational or hospital work. A person who is sent on a mission.
If that is the definition of missionary; it seems like evangelism and missions walk hand in hand.
Jerusalem. This is the first place Jesus sent His disciples. This is the most common mission field; however it may be the hardest. The reason for this is because this is the closest to you. It is easy to travel to another country and tell people about Jesus. This is because they don’t Know You. Jerusalem is your home or neighborhood. This is the mission field within your home or your next door neighbor.
Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” Mark 6:4
These are the people you grew up with or have raised you. They have seen you when you were putting on that happy Christian face, but they have also seen you when you were depressed and couldn’t get out of bed or when you were so made you screamed, “I hate you!!” or worse things. These are the people who are the most likely to see you as a hypocrite. But we have all been called to this mission field. Jesus has sent each of us in a family and community to be missionaries where we live.
2. Judea. The second place Jesus instructed His disciples and us to go is Judea. Judea is the area around Jerusalem. This would have been the normal places Jesus and His followers traveled. translating that into day is your town, work, or school. These are people who are not as close to you, but you may have some relationship with them. It can also be people who live in your town you have never met before.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. Romans 1:16
These people have similar backgrounds and understand many of the same things as you. This mission field is the one most churches focus on when they do outreach events (holiday events, VBS, community days etc.). The disciples Jesus was talking to were all Jews. Today it is not as racial, but town or city spirit and pride help connect people.
3. Samaria. The third mission field is a little further out. Samaria is the area between Judea and Galilee. The story of the Good Samaritan gives a good indication of the mindset and view-point many Jewish people had for the people in Samaria. This is the mission field that has some connected background, but are in many aspects very different culture.
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)…Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” John 4:9, 12
The Samaritans were Jews who fell away from God when they were taken into captivity. They were looked down upon because they had the same heritage, but over time created a new identity. This is the mission field we find in other cities or states. Many in America have different ways of life, but our history is all the same. It is harder to connect, because some language is different and many experiences are very different.
4. The ends of the Earth. The final mission field is the most common one talked about. Someone else. This is the mission field that a person has to take a plan to reach. It is a totally different culture and usually language. These are the people we see in photos those hurting people around the world. This mission field is as important as the rest; it is simply different.
All believers have been called to live a life on mission from God. Living as a full-time missionary does not mean you have to move to a jungle somewhere. A full-time missionary could be spending everyday at work looking for opportunities to serve and minister the love of Christ to your co-workers.
Will you accept the call God has for your life and become a full-time missionary?
Ask God which mission field He has called you to. It may change over time, but if you are willing to serve Him in this way He will open doors to serve Him in more ways.