In the summer of 2018, I had the privilege of being sent to Cobán, Guatemala. Here were two of my biggest takeaways. One, God revealed how much I underestimated and limited the gospel. I thought I knew the gospel until missions training, when I was asked how I would say the gospel to a six year old. In Spanish. Having never worked with young children before, this was a (layered) challenge that was overwhelming yet eye-opening. Without an audience who understood the implications of “salvation”, “ransom”, and “sin” -words that perhaps a younger child would not fully grasp- I felt tongue-tied. Furthermore, my usual go-to testimony of how God transformed my past of self harm became perhaps inappropriate to share. It was a wake up call that I had limited -and had been content with keeping- the gospel to the confines of my native tongue, life experiences and age. Through this, God once again reminded me why community was essential in my lifelong path towards Christ: by myself, my imagination and perspective of the Lord and his Kingdom were so small; with others, I could dream to see the “breadth and length and height and depth… [of the] love of Christ…and the fullness of God”(Ephesians 3:18-19). More importantly, it allowed me to re-study the most important story of the world with new eyes: as long as I am unable to speak the gospel in every language and witness its power to every soul in any and every circumstance, then I am far from fully grasping it. It would truly take an eternity to uncover all of its riches.
Furthermore, as God was trying to work through me, I was able to see my weaknesses with a clarity that going to missions helped me have: I hid under my anxiety, introversion and sensitive personality to excuse my easily offended, paranoid and judgmental heart. It was during an early morning prayer session that the revelation came to me so succinctly: being sensitive was godly but being hyper sensitive was prideful. I let my “sensitivity” exacerbate into paranoia that I redressed with isolation and casting tunnel-vision judgements onto my teammates which compromised my ability to collaborate with them, and more importantly, marred my attentiveness to God’s leading when I was with the kids. From this trip, God gave me a greater glimpse of what He was trying to do within my own heart.
Missions is also not only a commission given to us but a way to catapult us into the heart of God. I heard this from a sermon once and it stuck with me since: The early church of Acts (look no further than Acts 2:42-47) is a textbook example of what a flourishing church looks like: devotion to the apostles’ teachings, a commitment to fellowship and prayer, care for the poor and marginalized and people being added to the faith daily! However, Acts 7 takes a turn -after the fatal persecution of Stephen, the Acts 2 church is flung and scattered. We read in Acts 8 and Acts 11 that the members then settled throughout Judea and Samaria, causing a chain reaction of gentile cities and nations being reached by the gospel. To me, this illustrates that in God’s heart, He would allow scattering even a church marked with fruit and His blessings for many more to come to the table. This is the heart of our King and our Father. To me this means missions and being a follower of Christ are not separate. Go to missions because there you will see the heart of God once again.
Secondly, it is a stark reality that the workers were few. In Cobán’s La Gracia AMI Center, there are acres of land miraculously acquired, officially registered to be a church and licensed school, completely furnished with dorms, a school building, a library and dining facility -but there aren’t teachers to teach in them. Finances, public interest or support are not lacking but people who can commit to God’s purposes there for the short to medium term and (especially) the long haul are.
Lastly, I would encourage others to go to missions because it allows you to witness and hear how heaven meets earth. For me personally, through the testimonies of the long-term missionaries there, I got to wrestle with and imbibe in this fact: that the community I served and the organization’s physical establishment could not have existed unless God dreamt of it first. Then, He gifted His hope to ordinary people, and perfected their faith through repeated steps of obedience which then altered physical spaces, lives, and people’s reality. Seeing that, I took away a lasting inspiration to not underestimate a powerful Redeemer, to not dismiss opportunities for faith however small they may be and to continue having a missional mindset at home (in Los Angeles). Just like Cobán, even Los Angeles, was once a barren place until God activated the people in it to remain there faithfully and lovingly. I want Him to count me as one of those people, as long as I reside here. This new mindset has been a gift and an ever-present challenge before me that I want to praise God for. So altogether, going to missions added an invaluable layer to my paradigm and I believe it will do so for yours too.
Please prayerfully consider going to missions or supporting people going to missions! Both are essential. And to those who already made up their minds to go, I am cheering for you!