When we hear about the need for missionaries, we often assume the problem is that there just aren't enough willing people to go out and preach the gospel on the mission field. But what about those of us who would love to be on the mission field but can't due to health issues, financial barriers, family restrictions, etc.? What about those who are sent home from the mission field early because of burnout or health issues or visa restrictions?
My heart for the mission field stretched back to at least first grade, when I wrote in my journal that I wanted to be a "meshonarie" when I grew up. That passion was fueled by missionaries who returned home for furloughs and shared their testimonies of God's amazing power on the field. By the time I was twelve, I received what most Christians would dub "the call" ~ a dramatic moment in which I was certain God was leading me to the mission field.
My husband and I met as a result of our mutual desire to serve God as foreign missionaries. He proposed to me at the Urbana Missions Conference, one of the largest gatherings of young adults interested in long- and short-term mission opportunities. After our honeymoon ended, we filled out our applications, made plans for our training, and started the support-raising process to fulfill our calling.
All our plans crashed three years later when our second son was born with significant medical needs. Three kids, two mutts, and a mortgage later, we are still not on the mission field.
Why, when there is such a need for missionaries today, did God close the door for us? Why, when he gave us both such a passion to serve him on the field, are we still so far from that once-so-long-ago dream?
I have no idea. On the one hand, I look back and figure we were so young back then it might have been disastrous to go on the mission field, so far from outside support. I also think maybe God will use us here to inspire many more people into mission work, which is exactly what he's doing with some of our friends from the Russian mission field.
Even though my husband and I never moved to Russia as full-time missionaries as we originally expected, we kept in touch with many missionaries we had met during our training. A year or two after we had planned to move to Siberia, Russia changed its entire visa structure so that nearly all missionaries were forced out of the country. Although it was a confusing and tumultuous change at the time, these men and women have since gone on to serve the Lord as mission pastors, field-office workers, and professors who train future missionaries.
God's economics aren't like ours, his plans aren't like ours, and his logic isn't like ours. But his plans are good, and I look back on my life and couldn't imagine things any other way.
~ Read more about our own family's journey through missions and find ways to boost your prayers for missionaries around the world in 30 Days of Prayer for World Missions.