I didn't grow up on the mission field. Or did I ?
I grew up in church, a small one in central Texas where the two-digit attendance was posted in front of the sanctuary on a wooden board right beside the door that led to the nursery.
I learned much of what I know today right down the hall from the nursery in mission organizations led by my mama and other faithful and visionary women. This happened every Wednesday.
My friends and I, when we were old enough, walked down East McClain street from the school to church. From there we traveled to foreign lands that were painstakingly hand drawn on poster board with map colors and markers. We drank Kool-aid and ate assorted cookies that the church ladies provided on napkins.
Through storybooks we became acquainted with the customs in China and African cuisine. We prayed for men and women who were sharing the gospel of Jesus there and asked God that He would make himself known to the lost.
I can remember my mama, who hates driving in the city, making her way several times a year to the Christian bookstore in Arlington to buy more picture books and other resources which would bring South America to us if we couldn't travel there.
Here's the thing. My mom has never traveled to foreign countries to share the gospel. In fact, she's never left Texas for mission work. Her work was done inside white cinderblock walled classrooms. It was her creativity, passion and obedience to scripture that opened my mind to a world outside those walls, not a passport.
My mom isn't the only one who made much of the great commission. There was Ms Annie (and the other too many to mention ladies who served in the Women's Mission Union) whose hearts burned for missions.
I won't forget the first church where my husband Jason and I served. Several ladies three times my age took me into their WMU group. We ate lemon squares and drank tea in Mrs. Ekrut's kitchen while reading missionary names cut out of magazines. We prayed for messengers and other souls we'd never met, lifting up places we'd never been.
Yes, Sunday mornings have tucked the message of the gospel inside my heart. Women like my mama attached wings to that all important message.
I've been blessed to hold hands with orphans in Mexico. I've prayed with a woman who sat on the sidewalk in front of her crumbled house after Hurricane Katrina. I've picked up pieces of glass and concrete rubble from what was left of a church's foundation. I've jumped rope over a repurposed water hose and played games with lima beans in tin cups with beautiful barefoot girls in Kenya.
Each place held a strange beauty that caused my eyes to stretch open wider than before. More visible was the mission field in front of me, in my own town. And all this because women with no passport, but a vision, believed the gospel to be so powerful and wonderful it must be shared to the ends of the earth.
I was reminded of the overwhelming arch of missions this past weekend as Jason and I attended the North Carolina Missions Conference where we were able to thank the North Carolina folks for serving over 320,000 meals to our community after Hurricane Harvey. I was in awe of all the opportunities to serve and witness.
From mobile dentistry in the states to sharing Jesus to the gypsies in Romania, God's name is being made known.
While praising God for these works in an auditorium full of strangers, some, I learned, have gone abroad. Others, just like my Mama and Ms Annie and Mrs. Ekrut, have prayed and taught right where they are... for decades. They trust Jesus meant it when he said, "Go...and teach all nations... ". They have led us in classrooms and written checks, faith is their signature.
Work for the kingdom has largely been built on their backs.
I thank them. I thank the ladies who took me in early on in ministry teaching me the value of lifting up unfamiliar names and countries I still couldn't point out on a map. I thank my mama. Whether we go or stay, may we all be so faithful.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20