I felt the call to be a missionary when I was 11 years old. I didn’t know that one way God would have me fulfill that call would be through teaching until about four years ago. Maybe one day I’ll travel around the world teaching the Good News. But right now, this is where I’m planted, to be the light to my kiddos in this broken system.
I remember it clear as day. I was eleven years old, sitting in my room at my desk. I know that year I received the Holy Ghost, but I don’t recall whether this moment happened before or after that time. Anyway… I was sitting at my desk looking at the corkboard hanging on the wall. I had pictures of friends and family, a few pictures of artists I loved listening to, you know, the typical pre-teen room display. Also on that corkboard was pinned a picture of a world map. It was there to remind me to pray for our missionaries. That day though, I just sat there, staring at the map. I felt something in me shift. I didn’t know the details; I had no idea what it meant. All I knew was that I was going to be a missionary. It was my calling to work on the mission field.
Fast forward to college; since that time when I knew my calling, sometimes it was placed on the forefront. It was all I looked at. However, other times I placed it in the background, basically forgetting it existed. I didn’t know how it would all play out and it scared me (still does sometimes). Almost every time I heard a missionary speak, or someone speak about missions, I would cry. I would listen to their stories and plead with God, asking, “WHEN IS IT MY TURN?” Then I would look at my life and feel like it didn’t measure up to the calling of a missionary. Do I really have what it takes? Does my life show Jesus to those around me? Am I doing this right?
After five years, I graduated college with a degree in early childhood education. I earned my certificate to teach the littlest of littles. I had no idea that this would be my first mission field. You see, I had these ideas in my head, ideas that kept that missionary calling fire in my heart going. But I don’t know if those ideals really meet where I’m going. Then again, maybe they do. I listened to life stories of missionaries; I studied their lives, I heard them preach at church. They all came from foreign lands, places where they had to give up everything and move off; they preach the gospel on the streets, some hide, preaching quietly to a group hoping the government won’t catch them, they live life with different people groups, loving, serving, teaching, sacrificing, feeding the hungry. And while my heart longs to travel, I haven’t heard the call to go live in another country just yet. I have heard the call though, offering me a job at a local school; where within the last five years free-and-reduced lunch has went from 5% to 75%; a place where children come in, in defense mode, because they stayed up all night to their parents fighting; a place where children come in, nearly starved for food just as much as for attention; their needs unmet to the point of desperation. I did not see this as a mission field. It did not even click until I read a blog post about teachers being missionaries.
Because my ideals were so focused on living in a small hut in another country with barefoot children running around, I neglected to see the children in front of me. I didn’t hear their cries, their pleas to be fed spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Whatever your calling may be, missions, preaching, teaching, mentoring, singing, translating, etc., please realize that the foundation of that ministry may look nothing like you think. You may be called to be a pastor, and right now all you are doing is scrubbing toilets. You may be called to lead the worship team and right now you are only singing in the shower. I’m here to tell you, it’s okay. I know it may seem like God took you on a detour and left you; I promise you He will never leave you, nor will He forsake you. This road that appears to be destitute, it’s part of your journey. A beautiful part. This is part of your calling. I would be willing to bet, if you are following God with all your heart, compare your calling to what you are doing now, they’re connected somehow.
If you still don’t know your calling, don’t lose hope. Live life as it is right now. Don’t rush it. Let God do His work; in His timing everything will fall into place.
Right now, small town USA is my mission field. In a broken world, every country needs missionaries.