I’ve been having multiple conversations with my husband lately about what it means to be a missionary. I knew God called me to be a missionary when I was 7. Apparently, I stood on a chair in our kitchen and announced to my family that I was going to be a missionary when I grew up. When Brian asked my dad for my hand in marriage, my dad asked him, “Do you feel called to be a missionary? Because Lisa does. If you do not feel called to be a missionary, I cannot give you permission to marry my daughter because I know that she will not be fulfilled doing anything else.”
So, now here I am, 21 years later, a missionary in South America. And what is my job? A teacher to 4, sometimes 5, Christian, Peruvian, missionary children on a Bible Institute campus.
Is that a true missionary?
Of course when we answered the call and came here, I was 100% convinced – YES, this is my calling! This is what God has for me!
Now, three years later, I get a lot of questions from people here like, “So, when are you going to join a real ministry?” “What is your real ministry outside of the teaching?” “Why can’t you be a part of another ministry that does other stuff?”
I’ve heard it enough and seen the looks on people’s faces when I talk about my ministry that after awhile, I have begun to wonder… is what I’m doing really a ministry? Or is it just a job? Am I content in my little school bubble merely because it’s “easy”? Or am I content because this is truly the ministry God has called me to do? Am I filling some sort of void by doing writing and dramas for other ministries? Or is that merely another outlet of ministry?
What is a missionary – really?
Have you ever really thought about that? I think on some level a lot of us, if not all of us, kind of put missionaries on different levels of “spiritualness”, if you will.
- There are the evangelists – those that are fearless and are out on the streets every single day with their Bibles, preaching to the masses, and seeing hundreds of people accept the Lord on a weekly basis.
- There are the pastors/church planters – those that begin churches and sister churches and sister churches off the sister churches.
- There are the teachers – those that teach Bible clubs, Sunday Schools, women’s ministries, camps – you name it, they teach it.
- Then there are “support missionaries.” This is where Brian and I are placed. We are behind the scenes – doing work that most people don’t want to do or don’t realize is necessary. Maintenance men, teachers, cooks, secretaries, librarians, writers – there are a myriad of missionaries who are behind the scenes and go unrecognized.
So, do you consider them missionaries? Or are they just working a job, but for the Lord – as in, they get paid by raising support not by a “normal” paycheck?
This is what I’ve struggled with lately. There’s an area nearby that we drive through every time we go to church, every time we go shopping, called Manchay. It’s literally thousands of people living in shacks, dirt poor – an area full of drugs, illegitimate children, uneducated, alcoholics — lost. Every time we drive through, I find myself going, “What am I doing here? Here I am, living 20 minutes away from all this and what do I do? I teach. I teach four Christian missionary kids in a Christian school. How am I impacting this world? Am I really a missionary?”
And I think to myself… No. I can’t be. I must not be.
I cried this out with my husband in the car last night and he turned to me and said,
“A foot can’t say to the hand, ‘I’m not important because I can’t pick things up.’ You are a part of the body. What you’re doing IS important. God used the analogy of the body for a reason.”
He went on to tell me why my job is important, why it is considered missions.
And he was right. Of course.
But right now, can I just say, I definitely feel like the pinky toe of the body of Christ. I broke my pinky toe when I was 12 and so I know very well how badly it hurts and how very badly you need that stupid, tiny, insignificant little toe! But, that’s how I feel. I feel like I’m not noticed unless I’m missing. The job I do goes very much underappreciated. I feel like I’m not remembered or considered a part of this team here just because I don’t do the jobs they all do. I’m not the hand of the body. Or the lungs. Or the head. I’m the pinky toe.
But… God called me to be the pinky toe. He called me to fulfill this position. A lot of people have tried to fill this job before and nobody has lasted longer than two years. A bunch of people have said they would do my job… but then never shown up. Most people don’t want my job because it’s not the “typical missionary” job – I’m not out in front, I’m not a leader, I’m not reaching hundreds of people for Christ every week.
I keep going back to the fact that Dwight L. Moody – that great evangelist – talked about his Sunday School teacher. She was the one who led him to the Lord and the one that encouraged him in his walk with the Lord. Somebody had to be the one! I don’t know where my kids will end up one day. But, I do know that I will have impacted their lives. Hopefully for the Lord.
I’m the pinky toe, even if most days I feel like the appendix… I think I’m really the pinky toe.