My life often doesn’t look like what—in my mind—the life of a missionary should look like.
I live in my home country. I know the culture and the language. I attend the same church that I was christened, baptised and am now a member and a sent-out missionary of. My family still lives in that same village. Though I do different ministry in my church, my OM-ministry mainly involves a laptop, Skype and emails. If my car breaks down, my brother is always just a phone call away and that’s the most I have to deal with it. When I travel, it is often on convenient trains or airplanes, and they take me to some nice venue or hotel where meetings and a whole lot of talking happens.
Recently, I travelled with a group from an international meeting to a country in East Asia for a couple of days. Pretty much as soon as we were in the country, I became sick. The team did a wonderful job of looking after me: bringing me food, finding me medicine, hanging out for hours and even arranging for me to go to the doctor. One of the friends that was part of the group is a fellow blogger on this site. As she was sitting in my room one evening, I shared that somehow, I needed to write a blog post about this experience. Why? Because the life I described to you at the beginning of this post didn’t fit my definition of what the ‘classic life’ of a missionary looks like. Getting noodles delivered to my bedside because I was sick while visiting a foreign country seemed to fit my definition a lot better.
I have to say, the fact that my car does break down is a pretty missionary-like thing for Swiss people, and of course I do have stories to tell from my travels. They are often very entertaining for my friends, but more so because they like me rather than that the stories are overly missions-focussed.
Truth is, my life does not seem very ‘missionary’ at all. Most of my life looks pretty ‘normal,’ and no one would guess from it that I am a missionary. We don’t read about it often, because no one wants to read about how I baked a birthday cake with the exact right ingredients, or how in the village I live in now, people greet each other with “Grüezi”—just like in the village I grew up in.
I love reading about all the missionary experiences that some of my fellow bloggers have. Sometimes I envy them a little, because I am excited about those ministries and how people leave everything behind to serve and share about God’s love with a foreign people group. However, my own experiences as a missionary are often not like that, though they are not at all less valid. Truth is, some of the work I do is to help make those missionary stories come true for others. While what I and many others with jobs like mine—accountants, administrators, leaders, communicators, etc.—do might be less adventurous, they are as much needed as anything else (It maybe makes for weaker storytelling, but that’s okay.).
I believe OM already does a great job at recognising that missions isn’t always in a far-away country. It might just be my own stigma that I don’t “feel” like it, but sometimes it is also the perception of what missions should be because of what it has been.
Missions is sharing the Gospel with people who don’t have a personal relationship with Christ. Missionaries are those who go and talk about God’s love with people, and who are the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. We can all be and do this in our lives. That doesn’t mean we have to go on the streets and preach. There are a lot of creative ways to share about God’s love, and we can each do so according to our gifts and passions.
Missionaries on the front lines need other missionaries; someone who makes sure the money is being sent, someone to ensure that the paperwork is in order, someone to cast a vision and equip a team, someone who can communicate the stories that the worker experiences as well as others. The front-line missionary can’t do all of this them-self—not effectively and with passion anyway. In our complicated world, these jobs are needed in missions.
I hope we can all be a voice to what missions is, and re-educate the world how being a missionary doesn’t necessarily mean being a crazy, cross-cultural worker that leads a life of cultural mishaps and remote travelling (though it can be). But that a missionary in a well-functioning and structured world like Western Europe is just as much needed today, and jobs at office desks provide much needed support for work to be done around the world.
Missionaries are needed there and here—wherever that is. If we keep recognising and talking about that, then hopefully one day, we will all feel very missionary, at any given time.
Anja has previously been overseas but now works with OM Switzerland in her home country. She appreciates the variety of different things she gets to do in her work in public relations and always loves to learn new things.