What do you call a missionary who, for various intents and purposes, does not call themselves a missionary?
For years now it seems people have had ideas for why I like missions, which got me wondering as well: What do I like about “mission” work?
You see, though I could claim such a title, I don’t see myself as a missionary nor am I a big fan of the word. Sure, it might open some doors here and there, but I just don’t like the association.
Having worked “in the field” and then on a “missions base” for over a years worth of time now–spanning the course of six years and four nations– I’ve discovered this: I’m not the outreach guy. That’s right, I’m the special one on the team who doesn’t care much for the outreaches, no matter how well known a group is for their work. What I’ve come to discover is that I was not drawn to the mission field specifically to speak to the hearts of women in prostitution, to families stuck in poverty, or even to children living on the streets, nor was I called specifically to meet the needs of the poor, the homeless, the fatherless, or the brokenhearted. Maybe this sounds a bit cruel or Biblically inaccurate, so I’ll explain.
Everywhere I go, outreach, as it’s often called, is a given and I participate to the best of my ability; however, they have never been the thing that’s caused my heart to come alive. A potentially bold, yet true statement. Hence a sobering question arises: what then do I go into the field for (what is my mission)?
I go for something equally important, but usually cast aside: in-reach.
What does in-reach look like?
Having never been taught, I can only share my experience: People. Pursuing and caring for those who out-reach, with my specific focus being on those I feel most heavily drawn to. Yes, I prioritize and no, I don’t actively in-reach to everyone on “mission,” though most are affected by it one way or another.
- Kenya– my first two experiences with in-reach in a foreign country. Here I unconsciously singled out a few people on our missions teams, in the group we were reaching out to, and to the local team we worked with. I would spend hours with these people talking, playing, drinking tea, sharing laughter and sobering moments alike. Looking back now, the most profound thing I ever did there was pick up trash for hours on end, on one specific day, at a camp we were holding, to beautify the grounds and aid the local staff. I thought I was just doing what I was told to do, even though everyone else had given up and left, but it touched the hearts of the hundreds to the core.
- USA– the grounds from which I’ve grown and developed the principles by which I live. It’s often hard for me to see the positive in having been in the States, let alone born and raised, and yet it is the very place from which the Lord chose to train me, separate from the masses. The longer I live the more I see the States as a country I’m going to, rather than the home I’m returning to–though my know-how is noticeably lacking. I just recognize that it is here that the Lord first began developing my concept of in-reach, much of it taking place in “formal” and “informal” church gatherings or in hangouts with friends. The most important thing I’ve done here is test the boundaries of culture, of what I was taught to be “right and wrong,” and to involve others in my search for truth.
- Costa Rica– once again, only a few were highlighted to me, including our hosts. It is here that I began to discover a slower pace of life, where beauty is absorbed rather than simply consumed. My most profound moment here is a bit harder to pin, but I’d note it as the intentional conversations and the hikes to the waterfalls, through which I saw one person in particular open up to the world of prophesying. Direct connection to the Father’s heart and voice.
- Brazil– the place where I could say the most, yet where I simply wait, choosing to risk, pray, and hope. Here, like most of the other places I’ve been, is a place of mystery, a place of culture, a place of danger, and a place of hospitality. But it is in this place that I have expanded the most and it is in this place where I have begun to intentionally in-reach. The most profound thing I have done in this place is argue with God until I found myself listening and growing in love; in-reach to myself and to those around me. The results will continue to develop, but the beginning of it is a new home, friends worldwide, and a Brazilian family I anticipate walking with for many years to come.
In-reach: stepping deeper into God’s love and inviting others to come with.