A missionary call that doesn't look how I expected.
The afternoon was quiet. The girls were gone to the house of friends helping with yard work. The only “older” boy still living at home was gone to the Y and then to his brother’s house for the evening. The three little boys were outside working and playing and imagining. They’d been at it for hours and I was left alone.
Alone with my thoughts. Alone with my prayers.
Alone with my God.
I looked around the house. The one that now sits with a For Sale sign by the sparsely traveled mountain road as we respond to the call every overseas missionary has heard. And as I looked I was hit square in the face with all the memories. Not just from the house itself, but in the items contained within its walls. Because while we’ve only been here 4 1/2 years, this place holds the culmination of a lifetime of family built over more than two decades.
My heart felt raw. My eyes burned with the pain of goodbye … a goodbye that was still most likely 8 months off.
I took in the woodstove that has worked tirelessly to warm us and that draws us all nearer on especially frigid nights. I saw the shelves holding the books that we’ve read to little ones hundreds of times. I saw the kitchen sink where I’ve stood both laughing and crying with my people through the years. The counters where my hands work to knead bread or prepare meals while talking and enjoying the ones God has given me.
I saw the table, made by the hands of my husband and oldest two boys. It once seemed so big even for our family of 10 but now it seems quite small as we’ve learned the art of having an open door. The people that have made the climb up our mountain, in spite of the fact that easily half of them arrive with varying degrees of motion sickness, have taught us that hospitality isn’t a sacrifice but a gift. We’ve been loved well and providing a meal or warm bed is only a small attempt to say thank you.
Rooms that once maxed out with 8 children, now sleep only 6 because two have grown beyond these walls. But while they may receive mail at another address, this place is still home and the reality of selling it and having no place stateside where we can offer them that comfort has been hitting my heart pretty hard.
I admit to praying more than once for God to miraculously drop $100,000+ in our laps so we can hang onto it as a landing pad for visits to the US. I so desperately want to cling to the known in my fear of the unknown.
I do not want to go overseas to serve as a missionary at the exact same time as all I want to do is go overseas to serve as a missionary.
I don’t understand it but that’s one of the strongest arguments that this is from God. This isn’t what I’d choose for me. I’d have written my story differently. But I’m not only willing, I actually want to go, even while my head is screaming nooooooo.
It’s hard, though, that people don’t seem to understand. They question the call. They doubt what we know. Some even whisper of the foolishness of it all. I know because I’ve been told. It hurts but I’m not angry. I understand that our humanity bucks against that which is different.
We cringe at different.
I get it because I’m part of that we. This lack of enthusiastic support isn’t meant with harm because, honestly, it isn’t meant at all.
Everyone is just processing it differently. Some make good-natured jokes while others warn that we’re jumping in over our heads. And yet the bulk of people have just ignored it completely. Perhaps they’re putting into practice the old adage, “If you’ve got nothing to say, say nothing at all.” Or maybe they genuinely don’t want us to leave and yet don’t want to be discouraging. I could spend the next 8 months speculating and guessing at motives or I can trust in what God has made clear and love with everything I’ve got no matter what reason someone might have for struggling with our decision.
I always imagined a missionary was one that jumped in unreservedly with both feet. One that heard the called and ran straight into it without fear. One that had already been loosed of their ties to the world and stood poised to carry out the gospel commission.
I had missionaries on a pedestal that most likely doesn’t exist.
Because the reality is the struggle is real. A missionary is a real person with a real life. And it’s not the call, but the response to the call, that does the work of loosing those ties to the world.
Some of us are mothers being called away from our jobs and back into the home. Some are fathers being called to step away from careers that are stealing their lives. Some are families hearing the call to serve those right before them.
Some are called to stay and some are called to go, but we’re all called to live all-in, sold out, offered up, laid down missionary lives for God.
The call is clear but we’ll only hear it if we’re listening.