This morning, I finished my latest Francine Rivers book, A Voice in the Wind. Whew! What a heart-wrenching story! If you have forgotten what fun it is to pick up a book, let me introduce you to Mrs. Rivers. I first fell in love with reading again when I opened her book Redeeming Love, and I haven't looked back since. With all the non-fiction I am forced to read in grad school, it is so refreshing to get lost in a make-believe story that comes to life!
A Voice in the Wind is the first of a three-part series based in first-century Rome. Hadassah is the main character, a Jew taken captive after the fall of Jerusalem and enslaved in the home an affluent Roman family. As a Christian, she is torn between her faith in "The Way" and her loyalty to the family she serves.
The faith of the young woman in this book has kept my mind spinning recently. A regret that I have not written more since my three-month adventure this summer. As blessed as I was to spend time serving in Kenya and all over Southeast Asia, my greatest fear is that I have given the impression that mission work or evangelism only takes place overseas.
Maybe I chose to make overseas missions my life job because it seemed easier for me. It's easy to live without when you are surrounded by people without. It's easy to focus on God when you aren't distracted by material possessions or the latest media topics.
But I really missed the mark the last 13 years of my Christian walk. Mission work in America is just as urgently a need as mission work anywhere else.
I do not blame my parents for protecting me from "the world" while I lived under their roof. I thank them for guarding my heart against the dangers of sin and the dark places where Satan lives. I will say, though, that once I was an adult and started to dig into Scripture more deeply, I recognized an immediate call that Christ issued to everyone with Good News. I had no idea where to find those dark places.
Listen to this challenging writing from Paul to the struggling church in Corinth:
1 Corinthians 14:8-21
8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.
14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
18 Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. 20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 21 What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?
Ouch. Paul was always so bold in how he addressed issues in the church, but these words particularly cut to my heart. How many times have I lived in my wealth and abundance, strong, honored, and approved of by society? I have been so arrogant in my talking of God's riches to me through the obviously blessed life I have been given.
Health and wealth, right? God blesses those who love Him and keep his commandments. This obviously means nice homes, designer clothing, and a budget for delicious restaurants. I've been subconsciously believing this for many years, but I'm no longer convinced it's true.
So my question is, how can we truly be living the life Christ intended for us? What should our Christian lives look like as Americans? Goodness knows I am still on a journey to find an answer to this.
I have learned this: I have not found God in my home or my things.
I have found Him in the toothless addict that begged me to share with her about the peace of Christ. I saw Him yesterday when she was baptized for the remission of her sins, and prayed the most beautiful prayer of adoration to God beforehand.
I have found God in the lady who is desperately calling me late at night for affirmation that she is not completely worthless. As she battles with overcoming her love for liquor and the tragic loss of her mother, she continues to cry out for answers about the God I serve.
I have found God in the single mother of three who was physically, sexually, and mentally abused by men in her family, doing her best to make ends meet. I see her aching for clarity, torn by homosexual thoughts but wanting to love God's Word even more.
I'll be honest...none of the women I have mentioned were in my social network two years ago. I am a doctor's wife. I am a PhD student. The people I interact with on a daily basis have strong support systems and a little cushion to help them get through life. But I have never loved like I have loved the ladies in my new network of friends.
I have learned that being a missionary in America requires just as much intention as any church-planting strategy Gavin, Michael, Kris, and I will construct for Laos. I have had to seek out the dark places. I have had to overcome the fear of questioning looks from the men in project housing, the vulnerability of being taken advantage of, and the possibility of being stolen from.
I am so far from where I need to be. There are so many brave believers who have chosen to move their families into the darkest places of the inner city. I have heard stories of wealthy, American families taking people into their homes and disrupting their comfortable lifestyles. There are others who have simply decided to wage war on the lukewarm, ineffective American church.
Whatever your call, I pray that you surrender to it. I realize that not everyone is designed to be an overseas missionary. If you are tempted by thoughts that people who do this work are superhuman, please let me discount that myth immediately. There are so many mission fields within our own culture, and Satan is currently ruling over them with pride and joy.
It takes power to enter ANY situation where the Gospel is to be spread. And just as Paul told the Corinthians, the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. We have a God that has not abandoned us, but has given us the power of His Spirit.
"...for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." -2 Timothy 1:7
"14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being...20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." -Ephesians 14-16; 20-21
Please feel free to share about your own journey of working in the mission field of America!
"Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches." -1 Cor. 7:17
"As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” -Romans 10:15
God's mercies are new every morning, and His love endures forever.