It’s pretty en vogue to go on overseas missions trips. Christian young adults feel almost incomplete if we haven’t gone to a foreign country bringing food, medicine and the gospel before we’re done with college.
As Millennials, many of us have the luxury of hitting a quarter-life crisis and asking, Am I doing anything meaningful with my life? But then we look around and see someone posting on Facebook about their non-profit organization on the other side of the globe and immediately assume, That’s what’s meaningful.
Overseas is where some people are called to be, and it’s good to go to another country if and when God calls you. But perhaps it’s not where most of us are needed; it’s certainly not where everyone is needed.
Sure, we’ll see new cultures, experience new things, and have pictures with smiling foreign children to put on our eHarmony profiles, but overseas ministry costs a lot of money, takes a lot of training to do right, and often requires learning the scrappy basics of a new language. Once we have all that, we have a slew of other culturally-nuanced barriers to overcome.
On the other hand, do you know what you already have all the skills for?
You know your native culture better than any other. You understand how your friends think. You know the secular philosophies and targeted marketing pushed on them every day. You know what motivates your people.
Plus, access to and investment in your friends and family lets you bring them something especially valuable: your own struggles. Sometimes the best tool we have to impact our culture (for some of us it’s a culture that prizes putting our most flawless face forward) is to be honest with our failures, our weaknesses, our insecurities.
I met my friend Danielle through the community here at Boundless. (If you’re coming through Atlanta, reach out. I’d love to meet you!) She told me a bit of her story, including her battle against depression.
At one point it was so bad she went home to kill herself. She had it all set up. She told God, “I’ll give you the rest of the night to stop me. I don’t think you will, but now is your chance.” She went to bed that night believing she would take her life in the morning.
Early the next morning, her phone rang and woke her up — weird, because her phone was always set to silent. She answered, and on the other end was a friend she hadn’t talked to for six months. The friend said, “Danielle, It’s the weirdest thing, but you were on my mind all day yesterday. I just needed to call you. What are you dealing with right now?”
Danielle hid the fact that she had been crying, and said she was fine. Her friend persisted, but Danielle wouldn’t tell her anything she had been going through. Her friend finally said, “Well, I just need to tell you how much God loves you.”
After that phone call, Danielle got up and told God, “I’m still mad at you. But you came through when I asked, so I’ll keep trying.”
Danielle’s friend didn’t need to go to an unreached people group to have an impact. Her obedience to the Holy Spirit’s prompting made a difference for Danielle, and now Danielle can minister to the people around her with the hope she’s been given.
Just as Danielle found the courage to tell her story, you can share yours as well.
You might be called to go overseas, now or later. God may call you to short- or long-term missions to use your gifts in another culture, stretch your faith, meet a unique need, or all of the above. But you also might be called to stay where you are and impact your native culture right now. Then, if someday you are called overseas, you will have years of experience under your belt.
Don’t assume that the needy are “over there” and you’ll only be useful if and when your big and distant calling comes. Open your eyes and look around. The needy are right in front of you, and your beautiful story of brokenness and redemption is exactly what they’re looking for.