The Mission Field Has Come to Us

If you were asked to draw a picture of a missionary, what would end up on the page?

  • Would you illustrate a man dressed for extreme climates, one who is ready to cross deserts or jungles for the sake of the gospel? 
  • Would you sketch a woman with black and white ink, a portrait of someone boarding a boat with trunks and petticoats? 

If you keep a shelf of biographies in your living room or read chapters about heroes and heroines of the faith to your kids before bed, your mental images of mission work likely include details from a previous era. Praise God for true stories passed down through the years. Praise God for the ways they strengthen our faith and inspire us to follow Christ, no matter the cost. 

Stories of faith are timeless because our God is eternal—but do you ever wonder what it would look like if one of your heroes time-traveled to this present moment? It’s hard to imagine Betty Scott Stam or Lottie Moon using modern technology, and it’s even harder to visualize them using a social media app on their phone. 

Lately, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of wondering what updates Amy Carmichael would have shared if she was a millennial missionary capturing her life with the BeReal app. The BeReal social media platform sends a notification once a day, at random times, and gives the user a two minute window to take an unfiltered picture of what you are doing in that moment: washing dishes, reading the Bible, listening to a child’s stories, or sipping tea with a friend. I like to think that Amy’s day-to-day life would have been filled with many of those kinds of snapshots. 

It’s easy to think of faith heroes only in terms of the big moments of their lives and only in light of their fascinating international contexts—but their days were filled with many of the same ordinary details and opportunities you encounter. A few dramatic moments may mark their lives, but at the end of the day, they were ordinary women who served an extraordinary God.

Rethinking Extraordinary

One of my friends has helped me reframe what it looks like to reach those who have never heard the name of Jesus. She’s traveled across the world to serve, but God is currently using her just a few blocks from my home in Houston. The Lord continues to call missionaries to carry the truth of God’s Word to other countries, but He has also brought the nations to us.

When my friend Caron was a college student, God began to grow her passion for missions. Ministry is not her full-time job—she works as an engineer at a large petroleum and chemical manufacturing company. But as a single woman seeking to serve the Lord, she has found ways to give generously of her free time, her financial resources, and her heart. 

For years, Caron has served Houston’s refugee community. In this interview, she illustrates what is involved in local missions to an international community, some of the challenges she faces, and why the struggles are worth it. Picture her, not in the plains of Africa or the Syrian Desert, but inside a Texas apartment complex: a thirty-something woman with blue eyes and blue jeans, bringing the hope of the gospel to women from Afghanistan. 

K: Give a quick overview of a recent week of ministry. What did it include?

C: The recent events in Afghanistan have led to thousands of Afghans being resettled in Houston. Ministry has focused on them, and it is fair to say there’s not a typical week! It’s often a combination of helping remotely during the week (mostly at lunch and in the evening) and in person on the weekends. 

Recently, I spent my weekday free time filling out job applications for new friends, practicing English on the phone with a woman whose children and husband are still in Afghanistan, calling a caseworker in an attempt to get answers, sending a sixty-day move-out notice to help two Afghan friends move in together, and making many calls to make sure one particularly sad friend was not despairing. 

On the weekend, I visited several families, drinking lots of Afghan tea. For one family, I helped the teenager with her schoolwork. For another, I took the sisters out for ice cream and prayed with them, while another family and I went to a festival together. Where language allows, I look for opportunities to pray with them and communicate God’s story of redemption. Where language doesn’t allow, my prayer is that God somehow uses our time to draw them to Himself.

K: What are some of the challenges you face in serving? 

C: Language barriers, for sure. I long to connect with the women, but many not only are unable to speak English—they are also illiterate. This means that translation apps are ineffective. 

This work is also very time-intensive—each visit requires multiple hours. American culture is more of a “doing” one (and the quicker and more efficient, the better), while the Afghan culture is a “being” one. I’ve had to learn the value of just sitting and being with the women.

K: When you are feeling overwhelmed by the needs, burdened by the trauma, or weary from all that's in front of you, what truth from God's Word sustains you? 

C:  “Knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain,” (1 Cor. 15:58 ESV) and knowing that the work of salvation belongs to God alone. He is sovereign over all, and He draws, He calls, and He saves from every nation, tribe, people, and language. For God to make His appeal through us is quite the privilege.

K: What does "success" look like? What would you say to someone who is discouraged that they're not seeing the immediate results they want? 

C: I think success looks like faithfulness and obedience. I see this in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30). The “well done” was awarded to the faithful servant (v. 23). We have to trust God with the results. We are not all-knowing or all-wise. He is

K: What you're doing isn't easy, and there are hundreds of other ways you could be spending your time. Why is serving Jesus worth it?

C: Jesus is indeed worthy. I love Him and want to please Him, and I want others to love and please Him too. Truthfully, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20 ESV). He died that I might no longer live for myself but for Him who for my sake died and was raised (2 Cor. 5:15).

K: If you could strip away all language barriers and cultural roadblocks and communicate one single message about Jesus to the women you serve, what would it be? 

It would probably be the same message that I pray they’ll be shouting in heaven one day with angels: 

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12 ESV)

Start Where You Are 

God may eventually lead you to leave your hometown and serve in another nation, following the example of some (un)remarkable women of the faith. He may call you to engage the nations who have come to your hometown in some ordinary ways. 

As you begin looking for new ways to minister to others, Caron’s suggestion is to look at where your church is already serving the international community and jump in. Find out which parachurch ministries your church or other like-minded churches partner with and explore how you can get involved with them. 

Begin a conversation with a leader in your local church this weekend. Then join the International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians on Sunday, November 6. According to Voice of the Martyrs, “this special day is set aside as a global prayer meeting on behalf of persecuted Christians who stand as a bold witness to Christ on the world’s most dangerous mission frontiers.” You’ll find a free prayer guide and other resources on their website

One day of prayer. One cup of tea. One conversation with a woman who doesn’t know the Lord. Consider it a privilege to serve the Lord through these ordinary acts of obedience, one after the other—because one day, all nations will join together with the angels and say, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.” 
 

If you’d like to hear more on the topic of the persecuted church, you might want to go back and watch or listen to this recent episode of Grounded, where Karen Ellis joined the Grounded team to consider how to pray for the persecuted church—and how to prepare for a time when persecution might come your way. 

About the Author

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep was working as a hospital teacher when God called her to join Revive Our Hearts as a staff writer. She serves remotely from Texas, where God sustains her through saltwater beaches, Mexican food, and Scripture. Her website, www.apatientprocess. … read more …


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