Every year there is another application to be filled out for something or other. This year, I am filling out the application for the New Tribes Mission Associate position. Acceptance means that I would serve as a NTM missionary, teaching at a school for missionary students in Papua New Guinea or elsewhere. Those of you who have read my blog for any length of time probably realize that I first went to Papua New Guinea in January 2010 on a four-week mission trip as a part of the NTM Interface program. While there, I visited one of the missionary schools (see “Miracles”) and was encouraged to pursue my education as a teacher with the goal of returning to the mission field at some point in the future. Two years later, I am finishing up my teaching degree from Liberty University, and am beginning the process of returning to Papua New Guinea.
As I was filling out the extensive application, I came to the question, “Why do you want to be a missionary?” An appropriate question, to be sure, but one that made me do a double-take. Scripture, in my opinion, supports the claim that all born-again believers are called to be missionaries, as defined by sharing the Gospel with those around us. Missionaries are not made when one makes the choice to move overseas to a desert or jungle to share the Gospel with another culture. Thus, my response to this particular question may have been a little non-traditional:
I strongly believe in the idea of discipleship–that God has called each and every believer to be a “missionary,” to share what God has taught them with other people around them. As a single young adult, I feel as if I am more able than others might be to leave “stuff” behind and go overseas to advance the spread of the Gospel among unreached people groups, while at the same time actively discipling the students I am working with in the classroom.
Being limited by writing space on the application, I hoped that this was able to fully summarize my belief of missions. Were I to more fully describe why I want to be be a missionary, I would need to re-define the question. I am already a missionary each and every time I walk out my door. When I play volleyball, I am a missionary. When I smile and converse casually with the person checking me out at WalMart, I am a missionary. When I teach riding lessons, or teach in a classroom here in the United States, I am a missionary. The question then, is not so much, why I want to be a missionary as it is why I want to be a missionary as a teacher in Papua New Guinea.
To be quite honest, when I was first presented with the idea of teaching overseas, I thought I wanted to teach at Sahel Academy in Niger, West Africa. Teaching in Africa, or South America, or another country besides Papua New Guinea is certainly something I am still willing to do, however, Papua New Guinea is my first choice. The reasoning behind that leaves me looking far less spiritual, and far more human than one might think. When I went to Papua New Guinea in January 2010, I was greeted by warm weather, beautiful mountains, and a trade language I picked up relatively easily. As I got to know many of the missionaries serving at Interface and in Lapilo, I experienced a sense of community similar to the discipleship school in Pennsylvania I had just graduated from. In a certain fairy-tale sort of way, I have been “haunted” by Papua New Guinea ever since, a desire to return to that beautiful country stirring deep within me. If there is not a need for teachers in Papua New Guinea and a need opens up elsewhere, I am certainly willing to go. If the Lord closes the doors to teaching overseas at all, I am content to earn a regular salary and teach in the United States. At this point, however, I am walking in obedience and faith towards a “career” of teaching in Papua New Guinea. Doing so does not make me any more of a “missionary” than any of my friends and family who remain here in the United States, working at normal jobs, and leading “normal” lives. It does not make me any more godly, honorable, or anything else.
That being said, I want to be a missionary because I am a sinner saved by grace.