The Good Missionary
It is still dark with only the slightest hint of day break when we pile into the car from our home one last time. We are leaving. There isn’t much left to sell, the goodbyes have been said, and all that is left to do is to leave. After months of preparing for this moment it is here. There’s no one here to send us off in some grand goodbye, it feels as if we were going on a long road trip, and that we could be back soon, but I know we won’t be returning to this house again. I drive away from a home I had loved to a new home, a sailboat, waiting for my family and I in Florida. The emotions, and enormity of it all ebb and flow for the 30+ hours it takes us to arrive. At times, I am overwhelmed with excitement of what God has called us out to do. Other times, the fear of it all consumes me and all I can do is cry our for God to comfort me.
I have moved onto a sailboat. A boat I never saw until the day we bought and moved onto. There are no more prayers of if this is going to happen, or how this is going to happen…it has begun. Our new life has started. We are now for real sailboat missionaries. A family of four, with two small dogs from Colorado now live on a 42’ sailboat in Florida. It seems surreal, only 7 short months ago we started praying for this desire to serve God in a way that only He could get the glory, and then He would have to work all the details out because it was far too much for us to do on our own. And He did it.
I am not a sailor, and neither is my husband, not yet at least. We’ve had very little experience in the sailing world, but yet here we are. We are in training mode. God has called us out to serve in His world somewhere and somehow, but first we have to be prepared. From the mast to the keel, most everything to us is a new learning adventure. God knew this when He sent us out, He knew our lack of experience, He knew our weaknesses and our strengths. He knew that He had people He was going to send in this specific area of training, and all we had to do was step behind Him and follow.
We aren’t surprised when somebody shows up at our boat to chat and it ends in prayer, nor are we surprised when God sends experienced boaters who not only help, teach, and encourage us along our way, but have become a great source of fellowship and friendship. These occurrences aren’t surprising, they are ordained. We trust God’s promise to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).
We are training in all areas; sailing, spiritual, physical, and emotional. This journey has been nothing short of miraculous, led step by step by God’s graceful hand. God’s hand has led us to our sailing life and He will be faithful to help us learn how to be good sailors, but most importantly He is showing us how to be ‘good’ missionaries.
In the past, when I thought of ‘good’ I often equated that with success. So, naturally, to be good at something would mean that you’re successful in a particular endevaor(s). From a worldly perspective, this logic makes sense. You’ re good at business could imply you have a successful company, you’re good at budgeting so one can infer that you must have your finances in order, but does this worldly perspective of good apply to Spiritual matters? Can a pastor base his success on how many people are attending weekend services, outreaches, or prayer nights; or a worship leader gauge his/her success upon the the number of hands raised during worship or the applause that follows? And, what about a missionary, where or how do they become ‘good’ at what they’ve been called to do, how is that recognized?
I currently find myself asking this question over and over. What is a ‘good’ missionary? If I apply worldly logic, a good missionary must be one who has planted a church or built an orphanage in an extremely remote place in the world and the converts to Christ are too numerous to count (this would actually be a wonderful thing to have happen), and because of this outwardly view of success the financial support would roll in. When I see missionary work from a worldly perspective such as this, I feel far from ‘good’, but I then have to ask myself what is good to God?
My example comes from the Apostle Paul who was a great missionary. A man who was spiritually changed on the road to create destruction, but set upon a different path to bring the good news of Christ to the Gentiles. I sometimes wonder if he was serving in modern times would his work be viewed as a success or a failure? There was much suffering in Paul’s life and ministry, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews, the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27, ESV).
Unfortunately, many churches, and fellow beleivers recognize hardships or peril in ministry/missions as either Spiritual warfare, or closed doors from God. The modern church can be quick to label a ministry unsuccessful if it’s hard, underattended, or not growing. Sadly, this judgement is not coming from the Spiritual perspective, but the world’s definition of good and successful. Paul’s example of continuing on in his mission despite the peril, the naysayers, and focusing his eyes solely on Jesus allowed his work and life to be the greatest example of mission work.
For me, I do not desire nor ask for the sufferings Paul experienced. I do not need those experiences to be a ‘good’ missionary. When suffering comes, and perils arise, I will remember Paul and his works and remember that those experiences were apart of His plan, and I will try not to let the worldly view of hardship shake my mission. I do; however, need my eyes and heart solely focused on the Lord just as Paul was. The success of what I do is not defined by a missionary checklist, but on my obedience and faithfulness to go where He calls me. God called my family and I into His service, we have answered His call to go.
So, what is a ‘good missionary’? The one who has faithfully responded to God’s call on their life to serve wherever and whoever He places before you.