“I Have a Heart for Missions,” but What Does That Mean?

In the distance, I see the rain clouds rolling in, ominous. The almost unnoticeable blonde, hairs on my arms stand straight as a sudden heavy breeze reaches my skin.

Heaven’s sighing deeply this evening.

Moments later, the sky opens up. Something about the way the rain touches my sunburned shoulder takes me back to a late night walk in India. Rain jacket pulled snugly around my oversized kurta, our dusty feet took us to the beachfront shops of sweet native women, aching for the living word.

The rain reminds me that pieces of my heart are often so very far away.

My memory’s recollection of monsoon season’s song lulls me to sleep.

“I have a heart for missions,” were the words that emerged from my lips, barely eighteen and returning home from my second twelve day stint in Bolivia. I had gone from a mostly sheltered, homeschooled adolescence, to holding nearly naked babies in a women’s prison. I still remember the way the colors of hand-washed clothes hung from lines within those four walls. I remember the shock of it all, my young, empathetic heart bleeding out. Mostly, I remember not really being sure what to do about it all—the poverty, the hurt, the marginalized, and my return to a safe, overabundant, lavish lifestyle.

Returning to a small, Christian liberal-arts university, telling people that “I have a heart for missions,” seemed to need no explanation. I would share about the fatherless, South American children at the home, the building projects we had done, and the alpacas that had allegedly spit in my face. People listened and returned my sentiment. Missions were important. They felt called to missions too. Didn’t our university, after all, have a whole week of chapel services dedicated to missionaries and the work they were doing around the world? Yes, we were all called to do international mission work.

Looking back, I am able to see a trend in so many believing young adults of my generation. I see youth groups come back from week long trips and obsess over their interactions with one small child. They talk about how they felt so close to Jesus and how they just want to be able to love on that child for the rest of their life. They say that they hate America, our materialism, and our culture. And you know, I get it. I really do. I was that youth with that heart and that mindset. Radical, eye-opening experiences often result in radical shifts in opinion and mindset. No one can be blamed for the way the heart and mind comprehend a shift in world view. One can be guided though, with what to do with that radical exposure and experience.

I was first exposed to aspects of overseas mission work in a safe, short-term, only somewhat uncomfortable environment, but perhaps never taught to think about what it really meant when I said, “I feel called to do mission work,” or “I have a heart for missions.” And thus, an overabundance of young people have felt conflicted about their purpose. How could we stay and maintain a normal, everyday life—buying new clothes and eating take out while men, women, and children maintained such radically different lifestyles overseas? Was it wrong to want that American lifestyle? Was it self-centered to want to pursue higher education or work a 9-5 job? And even if it wasn’t, what was I to do with the pull inside my heart for those distant, far off places, people, and cultures? Can I be called while living in a southern suburb? 

So, several years and 2,190 sunrises later, I sit at my desk in the room that I grew up in. In front of me sit a myriad of different objects, all significant in some way, shape, or form. A photo of my brothers and me as children. A set of gold, Indian bangles. A note from some of my residents, written to me during my time as a dorm Chaplain. A photo of a little, Bolivian girl.
My experiences lay out before me like a quilt of many colors. All different. All valuable. All, somehow creating me into the passionate person that I am. I wish to stand for justice. Stand up for the poor, both spiritually and physically. My mantra is to act, love, and walk. 

I sit, and I ask again, perhaps for the first real time—what does it mean when I say I have a heart for missions? I am daily reminded of my time spent in India last summer. I am filled with the smells, sounds, and smiles of those I grew to love. I want to go back. Yet, here I am, living a day to day existence in Nashville, Tennessee. Can my heart and God’s wish for me really be so different?

In the next few blog posts, I want to explore the idea of mission work. I want to invite you into my head, my heart, and to meet a very dear friend who would also like to meet you! I want to explore what it means to be a follower of Christ and live out one of the greatest privileges and tasks–to be his hands and feet among all nations.

Explore with me. Join me on this journey by sharing your thoughts. There will not be one right answer. It will not be mine or yours. And questions that don’t have one right answer? In my opinion, those are the best kind of questions to ask.


2 Replies to ““I Have a Heart for Missions,” but What Does That Mean?”

  1. This post reminds me of Mary Oliver’s poem, Sunrise:

    You can
    die for it–
    an idea,
    or the world. People

    have done so,
    their small bodies be bound

    to the stake,
    an unforgettable
    fury of light. But

    this morning,
    climbing the familiar hills
    in the familiar
    fabric of dawn, I thought

    of China,
    and India
    and Europe, and I thought
    how the sun

    for everyone just
    so joyfully
    as it rises

    under the lashes
    of my own eyes, and I thought
    I am so many!
    What is my name?

    What is the name
    of the deep breath I would take
    over and over
    for all of us? Call it

    whatever you want, it is
    happiness, it is another one
    of the ways to enter

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