I'm spending more and more time thinking about our return to Africa. We've been on a rather extended furlough from our work in East Africa and the horn of Africa. The time away has been good. Needed. My parents needed me as they are aging and there have been health issues. My wife has used the time to pursue a nursing degree, something that will be helpful both here in the US and so helpful in Kenya. As the time approaches, I wanted to address the issue of a missionary "call." I know this isn't exactly writing related, but I think many of us approach our writing as calling much as I do with my work as a surgeon in Africa.
The question always seems to come up. How do you know you are "called"?
This puzzles me. Really. We've all read the Great Commission in Matthew 28, right. It doesn't say, "If you are called, go..." or "If you've got your future finances in order, go" or "If your family won't miss you, go..." No, it simply says, "Go."
But I've found that Christians play something of a game with the Great Commission. They read the words and say (with relief), "Well, I'm not called, so that doesn't apply to me." But when they read other verses, say "Come unto me all you who labor and I will give you rest," the filter comes off and they don't respond, "Well I can't do that, I'm not called to rest." Funny. It's a double standard.
But Christians seem to misunderstand the concept of a call. They act as if it is mysterious and spooky. I jokingly tell a story about how I developed a rash on my arm while I was considering whether to go to Africa. The rash looked strangely like the continent of Africa. Oooh. Was that a call? NO! It was poison ivy!
But listening to others talk about a calling and you might think it is something as mysterious and spooky as that.
When my wife and I were considering working in Kenya, we read a verse in Galatians 6:10 which essentially said, If you have opportunity to do good, do it. So there it was: our call was that simple. We had an opportunity to serve patients in Kenya and it seemed to be good, so with the opportunity, we obeyed and did it. There was nothing written in the sky. No audible voice, just an assurance from the Bible that we were to do "good things."
Of course, I understand God doesn't ask everyone to be a foreign missionary. By in large, I think Christians should stay put and minister to others where they find themselves. I believe in indigenous missions, that is, outreach accomplished by other people from within your own ethnic group. But that only works if there is an established church within that ethnic cultural group to do the work. When there isn't, work like I am doing is not only valid; it is desperately needed.
I love the body of Christ metaphor. He makes some to be eyes, some ears, some fingers and some toes. We are not all to be foreign missionaries; but we all, as a part of one body, function to get the job done.
When looking at the Great Commission, we have three options: Go. Send. Or disobey.
How are you answering the call?