My Heart for Missions
A couple of weeks ago, a pastor from one of my supporting churches asked me to write a ‘blog’ on the subject “My heart for missions”. I’ve talked about my heart for missions for decades…but realized I had never written something specifically about this. So here’s what I said.
“My heart for missions can be traced back to my parents. They were missionaries in Hong Kong for almost 20 years, and I had the privilege of being born and raised in this vibrant city. Seeing my parents’ lives, work and witness for Jesus had a huge impact on me, as did the incredible experience of growing up in such a beautiful part of the world. Although I couldn’t articulate it at the time, I believe that God called me to be a missionary when I was about four or five years old, and planted this desire deep within my heart. So when I joined International Ministries in 1999 and moved to Thailand to serve at the New Life Center, it was the culmination of this life-long dream, and I was so grateful that God brought it to fruition.
In reflecting over the past decade or so, I think one of the biggest surprises – something unexpected that has continued to increase my heart for missions – is what God has taught me through the lives and witness of the girls at the Center (they are survivors of forced labor, trafficking, and sexual abuse).
Now, I did expect God to teach me many things in Thailand, and He did. God taught me far more than I anticipated regarding servant leadership, making tough decisions, and humility (best learned, of course, through multiple experiences of humiliation). I’ve learned about living in community, how to adapt, and how to persevere. He’s taught me about sexual abuse and prostitution – subjects that used to make me extremely uncomfortable (but don’t anymore). He brought me through bouts of severe physical illness, seasons of spiritual attack, and a number of other challenges. I am grateful for His faithfulness throughout all these seasons. But something I just wasn’t expecting was the degree to which God taught me things directly from the girls to whom I was ministering.
One NLCF resident, a survivor of forced prostitution and trafficking, remained focused on Jesus in what turned into a three year legal battle. She was forced to testify against her trafficker in court when she was just 13 years old, and was threatened with deportation. In the midst of this turmoil, she would say with confidence, “I know that I am connected to Jesus, and that He will provide for me - no matter what happens.” (Can you say that, about whatever is happening in your life right now?)
Another NLCF resident – a 14 year old who came to us after 5 years of abuse and exploitation in the commercial sex trade industry – told me she experienced the liberating love of Jesus after she heard the story of the paralytic in the gospel of Mark. She told me she identified with the man on the mat, and heard Jesus say to her “I love you, and I am telling you now to get up.” (What is the mat you’re on right now – those things that keep you spiritually, emotionally ‘down’? Can you hear Jesus saying this same thing to you?) These are just two of the many powerful testimonies of the girls at the New Life Center. I am humbled to know these young women and learn more about God through their lives.
You see, it really is true that you don’t become fully missional until you realize that both you and the other (the person to whom you are ministering) are the subject and object of God’s mission. So while I was busy doing administrative work and other stuff for the New Life Center and thinking that I was ministering to the girls there, the truth is they were actually ministering to me - teaching me things that God wanted me to learn, and strengthening my faith.
As you open your heart to missions – whether it’s local or global missions - God will make you face things that you just don’t want to face. And how’s this for ironic - He will teach you the very things you need to learn through those to whom He has sent you to minister. May God continue to give us hearts for His world and the work to which He has called us!”