Have you ever given much thought about what the life of a missionary is really like? I used to see pictures of missionaries flashed up on the screen at church and think they were somehow different from me. I would listen to their testimonies and updates on what was going on in their ministries and be in awe of how they could make such sacrifices, possibly pack up their families and move across the world, live in harsh conditions, live away from their families and the conveniences of the States, etc. But to be honest, for many years, that's as far as it went. Maybe I would give a little money to their ministry or would pray for them, but never really considered all that went into their daily lives and their hearts.
That perspective has changed drastically for me over the past year. One year ago, I was invited by a good friend to go along with her team to Nicaragua on a mission trip. I had never seriously considered the idea before, but for some reason this time I wanted to go. I had heard personal stories of her family going on trips every year and how meaningful the trips were to their lives. I went on the trip with an eagerness to experience this too, but little did I know that this would be an event that would change the course of our lives. God used every many opportunities during our planning and the 13 day trip to begin to lay on my heart a love for ministry and the mission field. I came back thinking I would "eventually" go back to Nicaragua on another trip, but God's plans were bigger than mine. Over the next several months, I really felt God leading me to quit my teaching job and go into mission work and sell our house to downsize. However, I had NO IDEA what this would look like. I had no experience in ministry work, I had no job lined up, and we hadn't seriously considered selling our house before. I prayed that if God wanted me to seriously quit my job, that He would leave no doubt in my mind and that if He wanted us to move, He would sell our house. Well, He did - in 3 days!
I began speaking with Fred more and more and volunteered to help with any H.I.M. work that I could and God continued to move me in that direction. Before I knew it, I was doing regular work for the ministry and soon Fred encouraged me to seek out my own support as a homeland missionary, specifically as USA Staff for H.I.M. Almost immediately I felt unqualified, yet somehow knew that this is what I was supposed to be doing. Fred told me to, "THINK BIG" and encouraged me write an official support letter and ask my church for support. This was a huge step for me because I was feared putting myself out there, risking asking for support and possibly not getting any. "What if no one believes in me?" "What if I don't get any support money?" Not only was it incredibly humbling to ask others for money, it was truly stepping out in faith...believing and trusting that God will provide for our family. I went from a feeling of expecting a paycheck because "I earned it" in the secular world to being very grateful to God and my supporters for every single penny that I have been given. Although I make a small portion of what I did teaching, it feels like ten times more because I know it is from God.
This has been a process of believing in myself, trusting God and praying. I think back to my previous perceptions of missionaries and chuckle because they are not any different than you and me....they have just followed God's calling for them, which just happens to be in the mission field. It's pretty cool for me to think they probably went through the same process as me - feeling led by God to make a change, praying, asking for support, believing that God will provide, and ACTING. The last step is the most important. God will use you if you are willing to ACT on what he's laying on your heart. What is He laying on your heart to do?
My challenge to you is DON'T BE LIKE ME - don't be ok seeing the pictures flashed up there or listen to their updates and then forget about the missionaries the rest of the year. Really get to know the missionaries you support, those who are in your church or those within H.I.M. Although your financial support is great, prayer support and encouragement is crucial as well. These missionaries are on the "front lines" in a sense. They are constantly praying, spreading the gospel and preaching, filling needs, educating, etc. Often times, the job is never ending as well. It is not a 9-5, "leave it at the office" job. Ministry is any place you go, any hour of the day and could be with any person you meet. (Just be around Fred very often and you can see it NEVER stops.) :)