Not Yet Cut Out for Missionary Work

Like many young and enthusiastic Christians, I have harbored and continue to harbor aspirations of going out into the mission field to heed the call of Jesus to “make disciples of all nations.” And, like many young and enthusiastic Christians, I have thought myself suitably tough to withstand the rigors of the missionary’s lifestyle. In fact, I spent a whole summer in Eastern Europe when I was 20, and found the sparse accommodations and streamlined way of life not only doable but liberating.

Fast forward to my present self, standing on the brink of 40 and not 20, and I thought I was almost as flexible and accommodating. Alas, one recent trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands revealed some ways in which I have become less free. Upon arrival, I discovered our rental car place was off-site so I needed to call for a shuttle, only the line was busy for 20 minutes and counting, so we ended up taking a taxi to the place, which cost 24 bucks even though it was less than a three-minute ride. I banged on the guy at the counter to get reimbursed for the cab fare, and was generally huffy and mean as the long travel day and island heat was starting to wear on me.

The grumpiness continued that evening. After I had gotten the kids settled, Amy and I made a shopping list and I headed out to get some groceries. I got hopelessly lost, since there aren’t many road signs, and I gripped the wheel as tightly as I could, since I was trying to acclimate to driving on the left and to driving on the side of a hill. The first grocery store was closed, the second had very poor selection, the third had high prices, and I had to return to the second because they had failed to put one of my bags back in my shopping cart.

Way later than I had wanted to be out, I lugged all the groceries back to our room, growling at Amy just because I was in such a foul mood. And then, once the groceries had been put away and I had a moment to catch my breath, it occurred to me that I had gotten myself all wound up in the middle of a relatively affluent island paradise. Here I thought I was tough enough, patient enough, and accommodating enough to bear any kind of adverse and arduous condition for the sake of my God, and instead I was unraveling in a place that rich people go to for luxurious vacations.

Look, I’m not suggesting that the main or even an important consideration in being ready for the mission field is being able to bear difficult living conditions. Clearly, there is more to “the call” than being able to suffer and endure. Still, suffering and enduring does reveal where our hearts are, and after a long and frustrating travel day, my heart was being laid bare as uppity, impatient, entitled, and spoiled. As is often the case on my Christian journey, I find myself on a road that I feel I’m pretty far along on, only to find out I still have a long way to go.

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