By Scott Molgard
There are words which always seem to chafe me. As a visual thinker, certain words bring up images that were burned into my brain a long time ago. Recently, a new word has gotten under my skin. The first word is “Christian,” and the most recent word is “missionary.”
I remember my mom telling me, in front of my buddies, to be “a good Christian witness,” as we were headed out to get a buzz going. Years later, in our small group (which is an attempt by Christians to get together and be friends, called a community or a fellowship), one guy was explaining that he tells people the reason he doesn’t drink is because he is a Christian. How about that can of worms?
I hate being categorized, and I hate trying to fit the mold that a word can try to jam me into. So, while I have been irritated my whole life by the religion I was raised in, rebelling against the word missionary is new to me.
I remember when our church would have potluck dinners. Mrs. Reed’s chicken wings were my favorite, and all of us kids would sneak coffee, then act crazy. We would have a missions and potluck night, because that is what churches do, and some old guy would tell stories of faraway lands. I always found this interesting, but for the most part the consensus was he was just a little weird.
I always felt bad for these guys that said they had to “trust the LORD”, or they were in a situation that they realized only God could bring them through. This seemed a little weak to me. When we gave to missions, we did it with the same feeling we had when we would throw a little change at a beggar, hoping he wouldn’t spend it all on his addiction.
Another image I have of missionaries is these people who are super holy, or super convicted that their religion or culture was perfect, and they were on a mission to spread their own beliefs or to convert the pagans, to civilize the savages. That some great white hope would bring our western medicine and money and religion and somehow make the natives less… native?
As I have signed up for this mission trip with questions about God, questions about the supernatural and the spirit world, hungry for adventure and trying to escape my American Christian culture, even wanting to escape technology, it is amazing what we have stepped into. I am surrounded by people that totally shatter the image of the missionary I have always had.
I look around this dining hall and feel like a fat, broken-down old caveman. Beautiful young women, and strapping young bucks (had to say that) work on their computers, play games and laugh. The smiles and warmth are infectious. I am so blessed to be allowed to spend time in the presence of greatness; I am so excited for the mother of my future children to be shaped by this experience.
People have given up careers and abandoned their selfish lives to love others, to feed the hungry, to bring water to the thirsty, and to bring joy and love to orphans and people dying of AIDS. Young men deciding to live instead of hide in a cubicle or love on their Playstation. Instead of escaping into some fake adventure on the computer or watching actors on a screen, about fiifty of us have decided that there is more to life than we have experienced.
So while some might call us missionaries, I hate the thought of limiting us to that image. I think we are explorersadventurerssearching for answers from God. Exploring the beauty God created in different cultures and rescuing captives from the depravity of loneliness, sexual abuse, poverty, sickness, and disease. To be part of this community is a blessing.