if i’m a missionary, you are too.

I’d love to sit down and write you a blog about witnessing miracles and feeding starving people and all of the other things I assume others assume my life should look like since I’m a believer who lives in a foreign country now.

But I won’t… because I can’t. Other than the miracle of continuing to learn Thai and remembering my students’ names, I’m not doing any of those things. Truthfully, my life is not that different than it was in America.

IMG_8100[1]I have a bed. And a closet and a refrigerator, both full of things. I have a real flushing toilet, and I have real running water so I can take real showers (who cares that they’re cold?). I live in an apartment building…not the bush, not the slums, not a hut on the side of the road. I have access to wifi about 100% of the time, and I can find pretty much any and everything I want or need to buy.

I wake up every morning and drink coffee. Some days I make my own, other days I run down the street and buy some. I go to work everyday. I eat dinner with friends and coworkers every night. I go to sleep and wake up to do it all again in the morning.

IMG_7798[1]I’m not holding orphans, or feeding strangers, or preaching.

In America, “missionary” would hardly be on the list of words to describe my life…but here, living in a foreign place, people find it easy to slap that descriptor on to me.

But let’s get real – I’m not doing anything that’s drastically different than what I used to do and what most of you do in America.

Why don’t we call you missionaries too?

You have neighbors. You have coworkers. You have spheres of influence that desperately need to hear the Gospel.

You walk past people everyday that need to hear of the hope you hold inside.

You drive past places full of darkness that desperately need the light of Christ within you.

The lady you buy coffee from everyday is the lady that needs to hear of the saving love of Jesus.

Our lives are not that different, friends. We are separated by miles and oceans, but those miles and oceans do not make me any more or less of a missionary than you are.

The power of God is just as present in your life, in your church, in your small groups and in your faith as it is here. The presence of God is just as accessible – whether you are in small-town, USA or the African bush or a district of Bangkok.

You don’t have to go halfway around the world to call yourself a missionary. You don’t have to pack everything you own in a backpack and country-hop to serve Jesus. For a lot of people, you don’t even have to leave your own home to find a “mission field” to call your own.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned about my faith and my heart in the past couple of years of running around the world with Jesus is this: you just have to be willing to say yes.

The “where” is not the answer. The “Who” is.

Sometimes that looks like it did for me – saying yes to packing up a backpack and setting off around the world for a year, or saying yes to teaching English in a foreign country.

But most of the time, I’ve found that it really looks like saying yes to conversations. It looks like saying yes to the awkward small talk that leads to building relationships. Saying yes to being the only one and risking looking silly. Saying yes to the possibility of failing miserably. Saying yes to making different choices, and saying yes to rearranging your schedules and priorities. Saying yes to taking the long way, saying yes to that Bible study you’re not sure about, and saying yes to forgiveness and redemption.

There’s a man who runs a coffee bar next door to the school I work at. I stopped in before work one morning to grab an iced milk tea, and decided I’d try my hand at a conversation in Thai. It was awkward and it took a ridiculous amount of effort just to ask a couple of questions.

I sat down and was pretty thrilled with myself and then I realized that at home, that would have been a simple task in my own language…yet, other than speaking my coffee order, I usually choose not to engage with the people making my coffee.

And I drive myself crazy to asking why.

Why does my life look so different when I’m not in the states? Why does it take being on foreign soil to cause something to shift in my heart and push me to action?

I’ve got a whole list of things now that I’ve realized I do much more intentionally when I’m away.

And I don’t really like it.

Because there is no more or less of Jesus’s sweet presence in foreign lands. 
IMG_7966[1]

Maybe I’m speaking for myself, or maybe I’m speaking for more of us, but it’s like we decide that we have to wait until we’re overseas to live missionally. We have to wait until that special outreach event. We have to wait  until that scheduled service project to meet needs. We have to wait  until the clothes don’t fit anymore to donate them.

But really, where does Scripture say “Wait until disaster strikes and then go into all nations,” or “Go and make disciples of all nations that aren’t the nation you live in,” or “Go and make disciples only when your church has an outreach event”??

We must be going every time our feet hit the floor in the morning. Every interaction you have with another person, you are “going therefore.”

Go therefore to Target and make disciples.
Go therefore to Starbucks and make disciples.
Go therefore to that delicious pizza joint you love and make disciples.
Go therefore to your biology class and make disciples.
Go therefore to the gym and make disciples.
Go.

I’m learning to lean into this mindset, and though I hope to be one day, right now I’m not so good at it. But it’s okay, because “going therefore” doesn’t have to be pretty and perfect.

So whether in Thailand or the states, scattered through Europe or in whatever corner of the world, go therefore. Say yes to conversations and relationships and discomfort and taking the long way home to make disciples.

IMG_8043[1]

Advertisements

forty thousand miles later

So, here’s my question.

How does one sum up a year of life? I mean, really, when you think about all the possibility a year holds – all the lessons & beauty that leak out of everyday, all the smiles & laughter that were made stronger by tears & heartbreak- how do you put it all into words?

And even more, when all of those things play out on a backdrop of 11+ vastly different countries & cultures, how does one begin to explain it all in a way that does it justice?

 f8312291cc6feca90dc0e0630cc39704

I’ve realized in the past six weeks of reunions & storytelling that you really can’t.

Because no matter how many times you ask me what my favorite country is, I’ll want to say a different one every time for different reasons. I’ll eventually settle for Vietnam, but it’s only a piece of the story. And the things that truly made Vietnam (and every other country) beautiful are things that I fear don’t quite make sense to anyone else.

How do you explain the feeling of true, deep freedom coursing through your veins as you speed through the city on the back of a motorbike? How do you detail the childlike joy on a Buddhist’s face as she hears of the unconditional love of Jesus for the first time?

You can’t. I mean, you can try, but there’s a certain depth of beauty in the small moments that can only be experienced by the ones seeing it. That whole “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” thing seems to hold some weight.

1467391_10201205302320060_424285842_n

For six weeks, I’ve tried to think up these incredibly poetic answers to the questions I expected my friends & family to ask. I tried to prepare myself with the stories that I wanted to tell and the precious friends I wanted to share, the hilarious unfortunate situations I found myself in all year, the insane ways I saw the Lord… but when questions get asked, I end up replying with an overwhelmed, “I have no idea.”

I’ve tried to figure out a way to sum it all up in writing and offer it back to you, and I’ve found myself having a hard time believing the story that I lived this year. And since being home, my heart has found it hard to adjust from a familiar state of wandering. I’ve spent no more than 5 days in the same place. I’ve jumped from apartment to restaurant to coffee shop to house to fill in the blanks left by only knowing each other through social media this year. I’ve wandered from city to city these past six weeks, and the place that I’ve found home hasn’t changed from where I found it this past year – it’s always been in the person sitting across the table from me.

So in a coffee shop – whether in Vietnam or Alabama, or wandering the streets of Dublin or hanging out in Atlanta, home is there because of who is there, even though I know now my heart will never fully be at home because she’s a forever wanderer.

IMG_9053

Because this world & all of its sunrises and cups of coffee, all of its dirt roads and markets of fresh fruits and veggies, – it was never meant to be home.

It took my feet touching 20 different countries on a 40,000+ mile journey to realize the beauty in that. Once you discover that this world is not our home, but rather a stopping point on our way home to Jesus, it’s a lot easier to see the blanket of stars above you as just that – a blanket, folded up nicely and waiting to welcome you home as you arrive. It’s easy to see the sunsets as the artwork decorating a forever home & the mountains and oceans serving as a backdrop to our favorite moments together.

IMG_1967

My heart (and yours too, Jesus-followers) will search for home until our lives end & we’re welcomed into our eternal homes. Lucky for us though, we get a glimmer of that home in each other’s hearts as we share life together here on earth. Basing it on that alone, I think there’s a lot of beauty to look forward to.

collage.jpg