simple is as simple does

Preparing for the mission field involves lots of church visits and presentations, lunch and coffee conversations, and follow-up emails and phone calls. The reason you are going is very much on the forefront of your mind as you endlessly share about the “vision” for ministry and show photos of the faces you remember and love.

But then…

You arrive on the mission field, spent, emotional, grieving. Overwhelmed and frightened at the enormous task in front of you. Will you even be able to do any of the things you said you were going to do to all those supporters back home?  Where do you even start??

As the wife of the official “missionary”, I was asked so many times, “Well, yeah, but what are YOU going to do?” The honest straight up truth was that I had no earthly idea. I knew I would be homeschooling my kids and that would be a big part of my daily routine. I knew I’d support my husband in his ministry, whatever that meant. But beyond that, I just had no idea. Four months in, and I still don’t.

What I do know is this: missions doesn’t always look like we think it will. It’s not glamorous or romantic.  It’s simple and every day. It’s very ordinary. And that, to me, is what makes it extraordinary. That our great God humbles us and uses weak vessels like me, through ordinary every day experiences, to communicate His love to people who need it. These are the things I’m learning as I love and serve the people in my life.

So over the last four months, this is a snapshot of what loving Jesus and loving others has looked like in my life on the mission field so far:

  • Serving a simple breakfast of eggs, milk, fruit, and bread to kids who eat cornflakes two of the three meals a day
  • Praying with an expectant mom as she is overwhelmed with what lies ahead
  • Teaching kids about the parable of the lost coin, and how Jesus is the “broom” and the “candle”
  • Playing Frisbee, soccer, hangman, tic tac toe, marbles, and skipping rope on Friday nights
  • Going out for ice cream and chicken dinners with kids who’ve never been in a restaurant. EVER.
  • Giving rides to orphans on Sunday mornings, elderly on Sunday nights, and other kids on Fridays because it’s too dangerous for them to walk home
  • Letting kids jump on my back, even when I have a migraine
  • Passing out waters to very thirsty children
  • Bandaging and cleaning wounds
  • Kicking kids out for disrespectful and/or inappropriate behavior (This may not seem like love, but it is to the rest of the kids who know that when they are with us, we will keep them safe.)
  • Singing special songs in English and Spanish week after week at church
  • Greeting and hugging each person who comes to church on Sunday evenings
  • Teaching kids to pick up their trash
  • Praying with a drunk man who desperately wants to stop drinking but can’t
  • Preparing lots of comfort food meals for my homesick family
  • Encouraging a shy young musician in our church to share his voice with us and serve God through music
  • Getting Kriol language lessons from kids we can barely understand
  • Helping kids with homework through facebook and text messages
  • Hugs, hugs, and even more hugs (probably one of my favorite ways, and that's a lot for me...I'm not the touchy feely type :)
  • Praying, praying, and lots more PRAYING, endless praying!!

These are just a few examples of the ordinary I’m talking about. As you can see, there’s nothing life-changing or earth-shattering on this list. And there’s nothing on this list that you can’t do in whatever context you are living. I hope you don’t read any of this as boasting. Most of these tasks were done when I absolutely didn’t feel like it and didn’t want to. When I was tired, or hot, or sick, or hungry, or thirsty, or grumpy, or a great combination of many of these adjectives.  And don’t translate “simple” or “ordinary” as easy. None of this is easy. None of this comes naturally to us, who are more inclined to serve ourselves and our desires than anyone else's. God’s grace is truly amazing and it's powerfully working in me, in you. His daily grace is enough! And I believe God will use these simple things to change lives. I know He’s changing mine, and I continue praying He changes others, too.