By Brooke Luby
I’ll never forget the story a friend of mine told me. His wife, who is from a foreign country, was playing a game of Pictionary with him and his family. She came across the word “missionary.” Giggling, but slightly confused, she proceeded to draw a rather embarrassing image of explicit stick figures. The word in her culture referred to nothing else but the most common position… in bed.
Obviously, it’s an awkward story and an extreme example. Most people in America know what a missionary is. Many may think of people speaking about Africa at their church, asking for money. For others, the kid who was home schooled in a jungle and have a hard time fitting back into society, may come to mind. I’ve had some several different stereotypes over the years, regarding this breed of Jesus-followers, and now, I suppose, I am one.
When I left the small New England town, I grew up in to come to Texas after high school and join the ranks of “full-time” ministry, several of the less “Christianized” of my friends assumed I was becoming a nun. I laughed in their faces. More recently, as I have tried to explain to people what I do, I’ve received odd blanks stares, smiles and nods, or the nickname “Lottie Moon.”
Wendell Berry said, “The world is babbled to pieces after the divorce of things from their names.” I wonder sometimes if the words we use in our culture as Christians to try to better define us instead stifle us.
“Missionary,” in referring to Christians who tell people about Jesus, is never in the Bible. In fact, it has only been around for the past 400 years or so. It began with the Jesuits, used for the members they sent abroad. I am not who is full of scrupulosity when it come to word usage. I am not crying heretic because the word is not in the bible, it’s not about that. It’s more about the way we use the title. The way I have been using it. I am not asking anyone to change their vocabulary, really, just to remember who they are. If you are a child of God, so you won’t be able to help but reflect His nature. We have been given the best news in the history, so it’s our privilege to share with our backyard and the world.
I have been in Youth With A Mission for about three years now, and still have a hard time embracing the title. “Oh… I am a full time… errrr… Ummm,..(mumbles under my breath) Missionary.” Awkward? Slightly. It feels like what I am alluding to is something like this: “I am a professional at telling people about Jesus. And you’re not, cause you work a 9-5. Only, I shouldn’t say professional, because I am on (cringe) support. Wanna give me money?”
Like somehow, my “calling” is super-spiritual and important. Yuck. We all know there is an unnecessary segregation between the “secular workplace” and those who are in “full time ministry.” It seems like on a bus filled with ministers on the road to the great commission, the businessmen would be forced to sit in the back. Maybe we need some more Rosa Park’s in the church. There is no separation between our “normal” life and our life as ministers of the gospel. If we have been wrecked by the love of Jesus, we talk about Him. It is that simple. Regardless of where we are working or what we are doing, we are “in ministry.” I know this sounds cliche, but I am going to keep saying it until I begin to believe it. I used to think unless I had an official position in a official Christian “organization” I wasn’t in God’s plan. I thought that if I wasn’t running around on some crazy overseas adventure, I was coping out of the great commission. Thankfully, the fierce love of God punches holes in my cardboard boxed ideas.
Last year, I met a woman in Virginia who had been through more hell then I even thought was possible, and survived. I met her in a Teen Challenge center where she greeted me with sparkling eyes and a broad smile, and for some reason felt compelled to tell me her story.
She shared how incredible sexual and physical abuse as a child had led her to the streets, and at an early age, she began selling her body for money and drugs. She got to the point where she became a woman pimp, coaxing desperate girls into her lifestyle. She reached the very bottom of her pain, after her baby girl was raped by her boyfriend and she retaliated by stabbing him. Something drove her to run to the nearest church and knock on the door of the parsonage. Now, she was in a recovery program, and her life was one of beauty and hope. Her eyes shone as mine filled with tears. “Now, I think I am ready to share my story.”
Missions is simply the willingness to open your mouth and admit, “I once was lost, but now I am found.”
When you are really in love with someone, you can’t help but want to introduce him to the world. “He’s incredible,” you will sigh to your best friend on the phone, “I just wish you could meet him.” There is a joy in introducing people that you care about to each other. It is the most natural thing ever. You don’t do it out fear or obligation. It just is.
I used to think missions meant convincing someone to believe in Jesus and get them to say a prayer. There is obviously all kinds of fear and pressure attached to that idea, because you are trying to get someone to step over the line onto “your side.” If they don’t make that step, you end up feeling like a failure. The beauty of the gospel is that it is indeed good news- news of something that has already happened. We get to be the ones who announce it. Imagine being a newsboy who got to deliver he paper the day World War II ended. We too are the delivery people- and we have the best news in the world. The war has been won. It doesn’t matter so much how the message is delivered.
As the body of Christ we can find freedom throwing our misconceptions of being a “missionary” out the “10-40” widow. We don’t need to have all the right training, degrees, answers, words or track records. With our dirty faces, and skinned knees, we can announce with joy that everything the world has been waiting for has already arrived. As a star struck lover we can introduce the one who completes us. As one who is still buried knee deep in the crud of our past, hardly off the streets, we can crack and weak smile and say “I once was lost and now I am found, was blind but now I see.”
Brooke is a missionary….errrr…. I mean, lover of Jesus…or something…. in YWAM. She loves to see the world, make up new recipes, and attempt to be a poet. Check out her blog.