By Holly Pelz
I grew up in the Missionary Church denomination in the beautiful state of Indiana. Sending out international missionaries was a big deal for us. We supported a long list of families who were dispersed all over the world. As a church and as a family, we spent a lot of time praying for them. I still have the rote prayer memorized from when I was six. “Lord, please be with the Kilgores, Lipps, and Richardsons.” Then later, “Lord, please help the Steffans, Schlatters, Seevers, Millers, Clarks, Sanders, Russells, Myron Weber and Stephanie Kramer. Keep them safe and help them be bold in sharing the gospel.”
In seventh grade I went on my first short-term mission trip to Mexico. It was eye-opening for me and overall a great experience. This ended up being the first of many trips, including the Dominican Republic, various other parts of Mexico, and Thailand. At a church youth camp in high school, the speaker challenged us with saying “yes” to wherever God led us, and I felt sure in that moment that it was international missions. In that moment, I said “yes” to that.
In college, world missions was an area of high energy and interest for me. I’d get excited about opportunities to hear from missionaries, visit mission organization booths set up in the dining commons, and attend workshops during Taylor’s W.O.W. (World Opportunities Week). Again, the sure feelings of this being what God had for me-going across the ocean and serving the poor and oppressed.
This, though, has not been what God intended for my post-college years. I’ve struggled with a lot of guilt about this because over time I had developed the subconscious idea that going overseas was the most noble, most missional and most sacrificial way to live my life-that it was the only way for me to really serve God in a big way.
Post college, I’ve been a teacher, a substitute teacher, a barista, and the admin of a church. And all this time I’ve been waiting for God to open the door for me to truly live in dynamic service for Him.
People were always telling me- “look at the ministry you have with those six-year-olds, who need so much love”. “Look at the impact you’re having on your coworkers at Starbucks- the way they all confide in you and seek your advice”. But I just couldn’t see it that way. I’ve been restless and frustrated (and arrogant), always thinking God was supposed to be using me in “bigger” ways. I think you probably know where this is going…
Nine months ago I started going to this “missional” church (Chrio!), where the word missional refers to a way of living, not an activity (like being a professional missionary overseas). Seeing all of lifeas a way to be engaged with the mission of God in the world. My neighbors, my old co-workers, the girls in the office of my apartment complex, etc. Such a simple concept, but so HUGE in the way it has caused a shift in my thinking.
I’m on a journey with this, still trying to wrap my mind around it, but letting go of expectations and allowing myself freedom to see my day-to-day life as ministry has given some focus to my restless energy. It’s created this new passion in me-authentically engaging the people and culture around me with the gospel message.
Now I have NO idea what this looks like half the time, and it brings up a whole new set of questions (and reasons for me to lay awake at night analyzing). You know, questions like- what does it mean to really be in relationship with people agenda-free? What does it look for me (and the church for that matter) to really engage in culture and live out the gospel in a way that’s relevant? These questions are for another write-up, another day…
I challenge you, though, if you haven’t already thought through this idea, to consider what it might look like for you to take on a missionary lifestyle. To adopt the posture and thinking of a missionary in your day-to-day life, engaging in relationships with people far from God right where you are, not just leaving the job for the “professionals”.
**Please know that I, in no way, am discrediting the work of overseas missionaries! I advocate for and strongly believe in its importance to the gospel of Jesus!