When I was in high school, I was bound and determined to become a Broadway star. And in my book, grade point average didn’t really matter for a starlet heading to New York City. So I didn’t give two hoots about my grades.
I was far more likely to be found sunbathing, sipping coffee at the local diner or watching a must-see episode of Days of Our Lives on my couch than sitting in class during any given school day. I wasn’t worried about silly things like college entrance requirements. My frustrated teachers told me mom I was the epitome of a kid not living up to her potential. That was fine by me.
But at age sixteen, I went to Africa. And everything changed.
I spent a summer with a team building a medical clinic and doing evangelism in a remote village in Uganda. I was immersed in a community desperate for relief and hungry for the hope that only Jesus offers.
Our team worked side by side with a local crew to build a critically needed women’s health clinic and spent every weekend playing basketball and volleyball with kids in the surrounding area. We shared the gospel with villagers and children wherever we went. My heart was on fire for the Lord and my faith grew as I saw life after life eternally changed by Jesus.
It was there that God planted a seed in my heart to pursue missions instead of musical theater. I came home and completed all of my homework my senior year. And, much to my mom’s relief, I brought up my GPA enough to squeak into college … by the skin of my teeth.
I thought God was calling me to the mission field in medical missions and worked for years towards that goal. But the Lord led me on a series of different paths, and becoming a full time missionary never came to pass.
I’ll be honest, there have been times in my life when I felt wistful that I was never sent overseas as a full time missionary. I learned Spanish, I have a medical degree and plenty of experience and training in ministry. I begged, “Here I am Lord, send me!”
But aside from several short term missions trips, He never did.
However, God taught me to be intentional about investing locally by serving with various ministries over the years. And though my heart sometimes longs for the adventure of the foreign, six years ago God showed me a way to serve as a missionary right in my home, with my family, by simply living my life.
All I had to be willing to do was make up a bed and set another place at my table. And through this simple act, I have been blessed to love, pour the Word into and share the hope of Christ with vulnerable kids. All without leaving my street.
What’s more, over time I have been able to build relationships with hurting moms. And I have been humbled by laboring alongside and learning from some of the most mission-minded folks in the world right in the city where I live.
The truth is, our community is just as desperate for relief and hungry for the Gospel as that village where I served in Africa. We just have better systems to separate those of us with resources from those in need. So we can go our entire lifetime in the US and never see the need ten minutes from our home.
In my state alone, it is estimated that 3500 kids are homeless every night. Nationwide, child welfare teams field a whopping five million calls per year with a concern or a cry for help. And we see foster care numbers climbing everywhere, which means kids are getting hurt, neglected and traumatized at an alarming rate.
If a church offered a missions trip to an exotic locale where participants could spent a week caring for frightened children in crisis, I suspect the roster would fill quickly with participants eager to raise support and set aside time in their schedules to go. In fact, it is estimated that one to two million Americans go on a short term missions trip every year at a cost of two billion dollars.
When we go on these missions trips, we are typically serving in the many little ways we could at home. We are loving kids, serving the sick, praying and sharing the gospel with the lost. The only difference is the location and the decision to set aside the time from our busy lives to go do it.
But when it comes to setting aside time to serve at home, and particularly in their home, people are quick to throw up a wall and mentally tick through of all the reasons why it wouldn’t work.
My hope is that this changes and changes soon. Our hurting world needs us to be ready and willing to sacrificially love the suffering in our midst. The world needs us now. Not when it is convenient.
What does this look like? Maybe it looks like inviting those rowdy kids from the neighborhood to hang out at your house. Maybe it looks like having a struggling teen over for a weekly dinner. Maybe it looks like making up an extra bed and being a safe space for a child in crisis through a prevention based nonprofit or becoming a foster family through your county.
“The place between your own two feet at any given time, that is your mission field.” – Jill Briscoe
It is my prayer that more Christians obediently step into the life changing practice of using their home as a mission field. Because we all are called to care for the hurting – across the world, in our own community and even in our home.
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
~ Isaiah 58:6-8