myMISSION Missionary Blog

Telling the Story That Matters

“Who is Jesus? I thought He was a corporation or a company.”

I had been interviewing a team of students serving in South Asia for the summer, and the students were telling me how, after sharing in a village, one man came up and asked them this question.

My Sunday School-going, Bible Belt-living self couldn’t wrap my mind around the thought that there were people who hadn’t heard of Jesus. But God had plucked me out of the United States that summer 3 years ago to show me the need of telling His story across the world.

Before I set foot on South Asian soil for my first experience overseas, I was a junior in college with a major I loved but unsure of what I’d do with it after graduation.

I loved telling stories. Sitting across from anyone with a pen in hand and open notebook full of questions brought me satisfaction. Journalism was my thing. It seemed as if it was the one thing in the world I was good at doing.

My Favorite Thing

Imagine you’ve been friends with someone for several years. You know each other’s birthday, favorite color, and how you like your drinks at Starbucks.

Imagine your friend doesn’t know Jesus, and one day, after telling her all your other favorite and not-so-favorite things, you bring Jesus into the conversation. You invite her to church or tell her something you learned in your Bible study that morning.

And then your friend looks at you and says, “You follow Jesus? I didn’t know after all these years that you followed Jesus!”

This is not the response we as believers should hear from those who know us best or from those we want to share Jesus with. As we go out into the world and share with our friends, co-workers, and families that we like our coffee with no cream or that our favorite color is blue, we must also tell them that our favorite thing above all things is Jesus.

If I Will, You Will

One minute I had my perfect post-college plans set, and the next I was convinced they would never come to fruition.

The plan (or so I had hoped) was to move overseas in 2015, a few months after graduation. I saw no need to look for a full-time job or move back in with my parents, because I was going to start my life as a cross-cultural worker when I wanted.

It quickly became apparent that my timeline and God’s timeline weren’t matching up, despite my best attempts to get my way. I went to my university pastor for advice, and he told me to pray and listen to what God was telling me about it.

I prayed and very clearly God told me, “If the Lord wills, you will do this, but wait.”

While that wasn’t the answer I wanted, I listened, and it paid off. I’m only a few months into my term, but I can see that if I hadn’t waited and listened, delaying my plans by a year, so much would be different.

Even as I try to stay focused on my work in South Asia, I find myself wondering about what’s next, and He continues to remind me, “If the Lord wills.”

Time Well Spent

Investing time in a relationship is messy. It means letting go of your best-laid plans in exchange for someone else. It means sacrificing your time for the sake of another.

But, what if that sacrifice means the other person had a better idea of who Jesus is because of spending time with you?

As believers, that’s the opportunity we have. Whether you find yourself in the suburbs, a college dorm, or like me, across the ocean in a new country, we’re called to invest time in those God has placed around us for the gospel.

Investing time means putting all we have into a relationship with a friend, family member, or co-worker. So if that person hasn’t heard of the grace Jesus offers, they will know it as a result of being around us.

What does that look like? Well, thankfully, God hasn’t left us without an example.

In Luke 19:1­–10, we see Jesus invest time in Zacchaeus. Here Jesus was, just passing through Jericho when, in verse five, Jesus tells the tax collector, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5 NIV).

Obedience over Familiarity

As I write this, it is Christmas Eve. I’m sitting in my room listening to Christmas music and have just finished wrapping my last presents. This sounds quite normal, right? It is…almost.

Four years ago, I left my home and all things familiar and moved literally halfway around the world to live in a place I had never been before. I spent two years living and working in a somewhat difficult place to live for the sake of the gospel.

More recently, I have done this on a more permanent basis, for I am here to stay for the foreseeable future, Lord willing. It’s a new place and almost just as different from my previous country as it is from my home country. But this is where the Lord has sent me, and I want to be obedient. So here I am.

Many others have gone before me and have had to endure much harder circumstances than me. And, Lord willing, many others will continue to leave their homes, families, and all things familiar for the sake of Christ our Savior, the One Who left heaven—the best of everything—for our sakes.

A City on a Hill

So I just moved to a new city and it is vastly different from the place I came from. Along with its special climate (hot and hotter), this new city has various types of buildings that are unfamiliar to me; a different style of dress—for the women in particular; working hours that are not the same as the ones I am accustomed to; and a different language I do not understand (yet).

But out of all these new-to-me observations, I think the one that hits me the hardest is that two distinct kinds of people live here. Now, I’m not talking ethnicities or culture because this place is probably more akin to a melting pot than anywhere in the United States really. No, the two kinds of people I recognize here are those who are living in deception and those who are living in the truth. This difference is much more evident here than where I came from, though the same thing can be said about both places, or any place for that matter.

The simplest way I can think of putting it is this: There are those on this earth who are perishing without Christ Jesus and those who are being saved by God’s grace through faith in Him.

Intentionally Present

I recently returned to my current home after spending a week in an extremely large and diverse city. I noticed this pattern of distracting oneself while I was there. Most people did not talk to anyone they did not know. In fact, probably about 75 percent of the people I encountered had on some type of headphones or were absorbed in their electronic devices.

They may have thought that having headphones on or staring at a device in their hands would deter people from talking with them, and for most people, that may have been the case. But I took it as a challenge: how many people can I get to talk with me?

The result was great. When I started to talk with people, nearly all of them at least appeared to enjoy making a connection with someone. And even more than that, every day I was able to share at least once the full gospel—Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection—with someone on public transportation!

Identity and Purpose

Jesus was aware of who He was. He knew why He had to humble Himself and take on the likeness of man. He was obedient to the point of death and died on a cross for our sins fulfilling the requirement of the law. And because of Jesus’ resurrection from the grave, we have hope of life eternal with Him.

Just as Jesus knew who He was and what His purpose was here, those of us who have believed in Jesus by God’s grace can also know who we are and what our purpose is here. When we read the Bible, it is easy to see that our purpose is to bring God glory. The difficulty comes in knowing how to use our gifts and skills to bring Him glory.

God has made us each with distinct interests and gifts, and we can look at those and begin to see what the Lord has in mind for us.

Why Guard Our Time?

We are all busy in one way or another. Some of us may have children. We have things like jobs that take over our lives or hobbies we undertake to keep us busy, but none of these things should be the most crucial aspect in a believer’s life. The most significant characteristic of the believers’ life should be his or her time with God.

Nothing you do will be more important than being with God.

I recognize that all-or-nothing statements do not tend to go over well with us, and usually we tend to find loopholes, concessions, or reasons why those statements do not apply to us. But believer, to find an exception to this statement would be a great folly, because we know our Father by reading His Word, and we understand what His will is through His Word.

When we read the Bible, God is sanctifying us in His truth (John 17:17). He sanctifies us because He is sending us out into the world. For some, the world may be overseas. For some, it may be their job. For others, it may be their family. And He sends us out into the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ so that all who believe in Him will have life (John 20:31).

The Benefit of Staring

I have always been an observer. In my childhood years, some (namely my mom) might have called me someone who “stared.” She constantly reprimanded me in public places because my gaze would set on the most interesting figure in the room, and I would stare until my mind had found a conclusion to my curiosity.

Maybe I still am this way, but I try to be more covert in my observations of other people and less like 7-year-old Abi, with her mouth gaping open.

I have travelled the world and observed some interesting things in the public sphere, but the observations that have impacted me the most and at a deep level were those of the people who were in my direct community.

Every night as a child I would creep around the house, in denial of the 9:00 bedtime rule, and I would watch her.

She tidied up our home, watched the 10:00 news, and got ready for bed. Sneaking around, I would check in on these routines to assure my mind the world was spinning exactly as it should.

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