What I Wish I Would Have Known Before Moving to Another Country to do Mission Work
“Tia, when it is really windy does a tornado start in the United States?”
“If it takes 2 days to travel to your house in the states, how do you go home and come back to school every night?”
“Your Spanish sounds different.” (I was speaking English)
“You speak English with your family Tia?!”
All the above are just a few of the adorable things that I get to hear from my students in Longavi. It is quite entertaining to work in a place where I am sometimes the first foreigner that my students have ever met! For many, the concept of a world outside of the region where they live just doesn’t exist, and I get to help them create it!
- No there are not tornados everyday in the United States. (what films make people believe about the USA)
- I live here in Chile; I actually moved here!
- Of course I sound different; I speak a different language!
- When you grew up you learned to speak in Spanish with your family. It was the same with my family, but we speak English!
Remembering these little conversations always makes me smile, but last week I had a convo with a second grader that truly moved my heart. I was sitting on a bench outside during recess when little Nayaret ran up to me and asked …
Nayaret: Tia, what’s heaven in the United States like?
Me: Well, it’s just like Chile. We are on the earth, but heaven is where Jesus is and where everyone who loves Jesus goes when they die.
Nayaret: Hmmmm. So then people from the United States are in heaven?
Nayaret: So there is only one heaven?
Nayaret: So heaven has people from Chile and the United States together?!
Me: Nods my head
Nayaret: Ooooooooo Tia!
This past Sunday, our scripture reading in church made me remember this conversation with little Nayaret and pushed me to share it with you. In Luke 13, Jesus is preaching about salvation when He states: “People will come from the east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast before the kingdom of God”
It is one thing to know heaven exists, but it is another to believe and look forward to feasting with believers from every corner of the world. It is yet another and even more powerful thing when those “distant” believers have faces; when they are individual people that you actually know and can picture rejoicing in heaven!
Little Nayaret’s revelation made the picture of heaven and our mission here on earth clearer to me. Man, heaven is going to be AMAZING and wow we have a lot of people to share Jesus with!
Before moving to Chile, the word mission always produced pictures in my mind of mission fields far far away, pictures of missionaries sharing the word, pictures of churches being built, pictures of evangelism groups/VBS teams/bible studies, etc. The word mission always seemed to come attached with a special task of some sort. In fact, dictionary definitions of “mission” read that in fact the word means a special task, or an operation, or an assignment.
Yes, a mission can and often does include all of the above. Of course!
But I am going to try to throw a new definition out there. A definition that I have realized while serving here in Chile and a definition that I wish I understood before:
Mission is a conversation.
Want to work in the mission field? What to live a purpose-filled life with the mission of sharing Jesus?
The reality is: You do not need to pack your things and move to another country. You do not need to lead evangelism groups. You do not need to be a preacher or a teacher. You do not need to build a church. (The operative word here is “need.” All of the above things are AMAZING ways to serve, and thank you Jesus for the many people who already are serving/desire to serve in these ways!)
The reality is: not everyone can do the above things. God did not create everyone to do the above things.
The reality is: God did create His children and give them a unique and powerful mission: To be lights of His grace. To be the tellers of the salvation story. To love others as He loved us.
The reality is: God throws opportunities to do mission work in our faces every single day.
And many of these opportunities are simple conversations.
Conversations with co-workers. Conversations with your kids. A conversation with a stranger while waiting in a long line. A conversation with your taxi driver or hair dresser. A conversation with your patients or with your clients. Conversations with the lady at Starbucks or the person sitting next to you on the airplane.
As we are rushing around every day trying to get all of our tasks done, God hands us countless opportunities to slow down and to really talk with another one of His children. He gives us opportunities to show love and to build relationships with others.
No, not all these conversations have the word “Jesus” in them, but they can have love. They can be stepping stones to deeper relationships and asked/answered questions. They can be a moment filled with light for someone else.
The sad thing is that it can be so easy to miss these opportunities. I wonder how often I have missed out on conversational mission work because I was on my phone, or working on lesson plans, or frustrated at a long line.
Yes, “mission” is a special assignment or task. However, that task might not be as hard or far away as you might think. The mission field is not located in another country. You live in it every day as you complete your usual routines. It’s simply the faces of the people that surround you every day, often during the most basic of moments.
I wonder if everyday God puts someone in your life or allows a specific circumstance to happen just so that an opportunity can unfold. When that happens, STOP, and seize those moments as something special.
Our beautiful mission as believers can be so incredibly simple.
It can begin with a conversation.