When I first submitted my life to the Lord Jesus as a 19 year old, one of the first major things I began to long for was missions. It tugged at my heart strings like I can’t even describe! My local church that I plugged into would show presentations on the projectors of places in need: the red light district, cultures where people with hate-filled faces were persecuting Christians and hostile to the Gospel, they showed neglected and abandoned children in orphanages and on street corners left for dead….. I would just weep and hope that some-how some-way I could one day go there and help them. They would talk about corrupt governments who passed corrupt laws. There were pagan parades and festivals celebrating other gods and religions and magic arts. It was almost unbelievable to know this was happening, and I wanted to be a light in that darkness so very badly! I would hear stories of women like Amy Carmichael and I wanted to join in with her cause for justice and the Gospel. Could I go into the temples and smuggle out little girls to save their lives, adopt them, and care for them, and teach them about God? I wanted to!!!
But that felt so distant and impossible for me. I was a college kid with no passport, very little money, and I only knew English. I felt defeated, and the idea of serving the Lord in these big ways seemed at the very least to be way off in the future of adulthood and at worst completely impossible.
I think many young Christians can relate. The desire for missions is wonderful and is right! Many will go, and that is amazing! But one thing that was not shown to me or taught to me that I wish had been is that if we will open our eyes and look at our own culture through the lens of Scripture then we will see that America is desperate for Christian missionaries! Could it be that I was called to serve as a missionary right here?
A very Real Need
In many ways our culture is much like the ones on the projector screens, it’s just that many of us don’t see it because it’s our culture and it seems so “normal” to us for things to be this way. But in reality:
The red light district of my city is downtown in a line of dance clubs and bars where young men and women are slaves to alcohol and lust; giving their drunken and drugged-up bodies away for another’s pleasure; and this only ends in pain, hurt, tears, unwanted pregnancies that often end in murder,and diseases, and a cycle that seems impossible to get out of. Or in this country in general: just look at the porn industry and how it sucks young women in and turns them to sex slaves. It is violent and awful for them, it is not a glamorous life as some may suppose it to be. Just read some accounts of porn stars and about how difficult it is for them to get out of. Not to mention the enslavement that it is to men and their hearts and the ruin it brings to people, family, and marriages. We have a red light district right here. It is just as heartbreaking here as it is anywhere.
The hate-filled faces who persecute Christians and are hostile to the Gospel are quite easy to find. Just begin to share the truth or the Gospel with a lost person, and you will quickly see the hate and violent heart towards the Gospel. It broke my heart that my children were yelled at recently by some women when they attempted to give them a Gospel tract down town. The ladies read it, yelled at my children, and told them to stop handing those out and to throw them in the trash. And this was to children! My husband has been spit at, cursed at, mocked, and more for sharing the Gospel (in a right way, in a love filled way) on the street corners in this country. This is real. Many many people in America absolutely hate Christians and hate the Gospel. And they will not hesitate to persecute someone ,young or old, trying to share the truth. It’s heartbreaking.
The neglected and abandoned children are everywhere: we have NICUs filled with drug addicted babies carried by mothers who can not or will not keep and care for them in the way these sweet little ones need. We have foster children upon foster children who need homes, who need Christians who can care for them and share the Gospel with them. And many more children in homes being neglected, abused, and mistreated going under the radar. So many children in this country would love to have a safe home with moms and dads who didn’t scream, yell, fight, do drugs, party, and who could keep the lights and water on, or buy them a pair of shoes when they needed it. There is real need here.
The children on street corners left for dead or sold into slavery in other countries are reminiscent of how they are being legally killed in “clinics” in our country and having their body parts sold for profit. At least on the street corner they have some hope for life, that a person would take pity on them and take them to care for them. Here in our country babies are treated like someone’s personal property that they can discard and others can sell their tiny little bodies. It’s truly sad.
The corrupt government who passes corrupt laws is very easy to see if we just turn on the news and listen to the latest laws that are being passed. We see our government celebrating and rejoicing over what God has called evil in His Word. The government is also desperately trying to teach and instill in the people of this country (especially children) that their definition of “right” and “love” is the one that should prevail over God’s definition of right and love.
The pagan parades and festivals celebrating other gods and religions and magic arts are celebrated year-round in many festivities we call “holidays” that are in direct opposition to Biblical ideas and truth. And perhaps this point steps on some toes, but the problem is that these have seeped into the Christian community, but if we’re really honest about the roots and purpose of these celebrations we will see that many holiday traditions are rooted in magic arts and false religions and are not a way God has prescribed for Himself to be worshiped in the Bible. Christians from other countries would probably be able to identify that very clearly, but to many who have lived here since birth it’s the way it’s always been, we become accustomed to it, and it just seems so common, but I believe it’s a major blind-spot that deceives many into doing what is dishonorable in the sight of the Lord, and I believe Satan revels in this great deception.
a lesson learned from a short term mission trip:
When I was in college, I was able to go on a short term mission trip to Prague, Czech Republic. While there we did various activities such as: prayer walking the city praying for the needs and the lost, doing one-on-one evangelism on the local college campus, handing out Gospel tracts, working with students who were involved in on-campus Christian ministries who had believed the Gospel, serving the local church in that area, volunteering to help at a local Christian drug rehab facility. It was a great week and a wonderful experience that I will never forget, in fact I got engaged to my husband on this trip so it had even more special significance to me. I came home and immediately felt the need to journal and process through it. The question that I kept repeatedly asking myself is “why don’t we do these things here?” Granted, it’s easier when you aren’t trying to balance a job, school, and mission work; but then again didn’t many missionaries work jobs? For some missionaries their job was the way in which they were allowed into the country in the first place and for other missionaries working a job was a way to engage the culture and be a light to the lost there. So it couldn’t be impossible to have a job and be a missionary, that must have just been my own poor excuse. After pondering this more and more, I realized I was very equipped to be a missionary right here, and that an American would truly make a great American missionary. Not that I was ruling out eventually going to other nations one day (and I still might), but for now I can and should serve right here.
Americans make great American Missionaries!
I am in no way trying to discourage anyone from leaving our country to serve in another, but what I do hope is to encourage others to be missional and intentional with your life right here and right now. Think about it: we don’t need a passport or money to fly across the ocean, we don’t need to raise support or be funded by other Christians (unless we feel called to some type of full time ministry), we know this culture in and out and do not need to be trained in understanding it, we also already know the language and do not need to learn a new one…… Our biggest challenges as American missionaries will likely be keeping our minds from the distraction of the “American dream” and not falling for the lies our American culture has been teaching us our entire lives.
I believe we would be astounded to see the results that would take place if American Christians lived like American missionaries. Set apart from the culture by their lifestyle, living as if they had been sent to this country by God to do His work. Praying for lost souls as they walked and drove through their cities, telling the people they come in contact with at work and grocery stores the glorious news of the Gospel, ministering to and serving within the local church, going into these dark places and being a light for the Lord.
I have some full-time evangelist friends that I love to follow on facebook who daily witness at abortion clinics and plead with women to choose life and to believe the Gospel. Every few weeks they will have pictures with women who have returned with their sweet babies in their arms that they chose not to kill and with testimonies of how these women believed the truth of God’s Word when they heard it that day at the abortion clinic, and now they are learning what it looks like to serve the Lord and to be mothers to their babies…… those Christians working outside those clinics are the Amy Carmichaels of America. It is truly beautiful and inspiring to me!
It’s always very exciting to send a Christian family or individual off into another country and culture that desperately needs the Gospel; to trust the Lord to do a mighty work with them, but let us not underestimate the mighty work He can and will do with us in this dark culture if we are willing to live on mission. Jesus came to this world on mission, in His home town and surrounding cities and towns, let us follow His lead and be on mission right here and anywhere else that He chooses to place us.
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. -Luke 19:10