If you cannot be a missionary in your backyard, what’s the point of going overseas?

I love missions. I love that we’ve been given a commission; a spiritual assignment here on earth. I love that before Jesus left He trusted us with going into the world to share a good news (thee Good News) that can save the worst of sinners and can set free those captive for years. What a gift and privilege we’ve been given! Far too often however, we have misunderstood missions as a foreign journey. We sojourn to nations outside of our norm. We engage in cultures far different from ours. We learn a language that is different from what we were born into. For what? Because we say, we are called to missions.

I grew up in a country far different from the one I hold nationality in. I grew up in a country where the Caribbean Sea was a stones throw from my bedroom window. I grew up hearing the familiar sound of steel pan playing in celebration primarily in the months of September and November. I grew up knowing not fast-food and bigbox stores, rather shops around each corner with island time programed on every mans watch. I grew up with houses all shapes and sizes painted every color of the rainbow and some. I grew up knowing wealth and knowing poverty. I grew up in what many of today’s American call their mission field.

I’ve been overseas a number of times. While I don’t hold the “calling” of full-time assignment in a particular nation or people group, I know my mission field is exactly where I am. I know my mission field is my backyard. I was maybe 6 years old when I learned this on my first missions trip. At the time I thought it silly the church was calling it a “missions trip.” Where we were going wasn’t even an hour away from where I lived. It wasn’t anywhere fancy like Africa or a Roman province. My family hosted American missionaries who told stories about the marvelous places they’ve been. That was missions wasn’t it? Getting on a plane and going somewhere you have little context of. Boy was a wrong.

My mom signed herself along with my brothers and I to go with the church to spend a week with a Minnonite community. It was a little town just south of where we lived. We were broken up into different teams and each team stayed with a Minnonite host family. The host family I was with had a daughter my age and a son one of my brothers age. We were told to do life with this family. We were told to fall into their routine and in doing so, be the light of Christ. I thought it silly, really. Why would these people who lived in my backyard need to know Jesus? There’s people in Africa, Asia, Eurpoe and beyond that needed Jesus. Not these people. So, I remained a recluse. I did as I was told but with heavy hesitation all while Miriam, the girl my age, graciously hosted me in her home trying for me to become her friend.

I wanted real missions. This trip down south really wasn’t fulfilling anything. At least that’s what I thought. To my surprise, by the end of my time with my Minnonite host family, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to talk about Jesus more with my friend Miriam. I wanted to continue feeding the chickens in the morning with her and going off by the pond picking wild berries as we share stories of what it’s like in our home. I wanted to continue sharing stories I learned in Sunday school and develotionals I had with my family. It was on the drive back to my normal life did I realize that missions was too often glorified as a trip in the great beyond. A lie I had believed with great conviction when in truth, missions was my neighbor. It’s my backyard. It’s the lonely girl sitting in her familiar stop each Sunday at church. It’s the lady at the casheir who’s just not having it. Missions are the people I encounter at business shows I attend with my husband. They are my family who know not Christ. Missions, is all around.

Before leaving earth, Jesus told His disciples,

Then Jesus came to them [those who followed Him] and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” - Matthew 28:16-20

Go was never about a specific location. Too often we are wrapped up in a destination that we miss the, now. We miss the opportunities and God moments where disciple making is right before us. Too often we are wrapped up in the title of “missionary” that we dare not witness the name of Christ because it’s far too uncomfortable and besides, someone else will do it who has the title to do so. Too often we shy away from making friends with someone in our backyard because that’s too easy. We tell ourselves, they are not the people we are called to witness to. Too often, we have failed to see that missions was never about us. It was never about a location. Rather, it was always about the gospel message of hope and redemption being made know through the name of Jesus to every people group.

To my missionary friends overseas and local. Keep doing the work of Christ. Keep proclaiming the name of Jesus and finding unique and creative ways to bring those lost to Christ. What you do is needed. Your calling is one divine by Christ; a soldier is this spiritual war.

To those who who are eager to be on the field, I ask just one question, have you first made missions your backyard? Because if you cannot make your backyard your mission field, what’s the point of going overseas?

You will find that your neighbor while may look like you and share some similarities, has stories of their own. You will find, that there are people sitting in your row at church in desparte need of a friend. You will find people at work and in your passing, are lost too. So before you hop on plane and travel to the great beyond, know that the nation we are called to share the gospel message, is where we currently are.