I listed to a beautiful testimony from a missionary today who is from eastern Africa. She grew up locally to me, in northeastern Ohio, but moved to Africa a few years ago with her husband and their three children. But now, her residence is IN Africa, and I just want to give a nod to that because I take a small issue with short-term missions, and I want to give credit where it’s due: this is NOT a short-term mission. Their family is a missionary family. They are missionaries.
But that’s not the incredible part. There were lots of incredible things in her testimony that were all about God and much less about where she lives on the planet. What struck me was her description of their daily life:
Her assurance to us in this was to explain how God is in the mundane as He is in the storms – which they had a rough year last year, so that’s where that went. But I can’t shake the fact that she grew up in a first world country, and moved to a third world country, but an exotic location none the less, and as a wife and a mom of a handful of little kids, her life is still largely mundane.
She described going to the market, homeschooling, booking and filtering water, kids playing outside and climbing trees, and cooking lots of fish. They help around their community, and her husband goes to work most days. And while some of that seems unfamiliar to us in the States, it’s not all that different. Our kids go to school or we homeschool them, we go to grocery stores, we prepare drinks and food for ourselves, and our kids play, right? We have jobs and help our neighbors.
So why, out of all the amazing God stories she told about how God healed her in a medical crisis, did this seemingly minor detail strike me so hard? Well, I’ll explain.
I have a lot of friends that grew up in the church in the 90’s and early 2000’s. And many (if not all) were told they’d be world changers for Jesus, on mission, doing these exotic things all around the world. And some people ARE. Don’t get me wrong. But most of us are still here, if not in our hometowns, at least in our home country. We’re on mission at regular day jobs, with our kids in our regular American houses, in our regular American neighborhoods. And I know too many people that struggle with that because of the expectation they were given for their lives.
They expected it would be more: more impact, more exotic, more… more. Bigger. Maybe in some cases, they expected it would be better. But here we are. Living our regular, mundane first-world lives.
Listening today to this missionary tell me that her daily life is mostly mundane and uneventful, just reminded me of our sameness across humanity. And also, just how cunning our enemy can be to sow seeds of discontentment and expectation and comparison in our hearts and rob us of the incredible joy to be found in these little moments of daily life.
I think that’s a really clever trick, to take something as holy and beautiful as international missions, and twist it and pervert it into something that breeds disappointment in the hearts of God’s people with their lives or even with their God. That disappointment can take our eyes off of not only Jesus, but off of the gratitude due to Him for the many blessings we have in our daily lives.
And not just the existence of our families, and food, and clean water, our health, etc… you know, the “big” stuff – but also, that first sip of coffee in the morning, when you get your eye liner just right, that beautiful little daylily that blooms outside the front door, the softness of the back of a babies head, and the sweetness of a ripe strawberry.
These are all things that are mundane and easily missed in the day-to-day, but when we take time to notice them and appreciate them, we realize that we can have a beautiful, holy, exotic life right here.
And more than that, when we take the time to weigh God’s Word against our own ideas – we must come to the realization that all people need Him equally. Tribes in Africa need Him, your toddler needs Him, missionaries need Him, poor and hungry people need Him, our government needs Him, your neice or nephew needs Him, Inuits and Natives need Him, and basically everyone, okay? You get the point.
Motherhood or fatherhood may be (should be) your primary discipleship program. And if that’s your “only” mission field for the time being, then so-freaking-be it. That is holy and sacred and valuable.
And if the exotic and extravagant is what you crave but not what you have, please realize that life “over there” is mundane, too. It can be quiet and normal and regular and maybe even boring. Having a fun, extravagant, exotic life is honestly just a state of mind, a perspective to adopt.
If you’re dissatisfied with the way your life turned out, or where you are right now, I’d encourage you to pray. Ask your big asks of God, because missions are for some people, I don’t refute that at all. Maybe it is for you and it just hasn’t come to fruition yet. But when you pray, I’d suggest also asking God for eyes to see the mission placed before them daily where you are, and also, a heart open enough to see the amazing extravagance in the mundane.
I truly believe our lives would filled with exponentially more joy if we just new how to recognize it where we are.