I am reading an excellent missionary biography about a turn-of-the-20th-century Englishwoman. She left home and country to bounce on the back of burros, hike hairpin highland trails, tangle with tribal traditions, love and lose family and friends - all for the sake of the Gospel in over sixty years spent in India. Her story inspires me. Her strength amazes me. Her sacrifice convicts me.
But it also confuses me.
You see, my life looks nothing like hers. We share the same title - "missionary" - but that is exactly where the resemblance ends. I have to admit this fact makes me a bit uncomfortable. It sends me to do some soul searching. And it challenges me to consider my daily choices in life and ministry.
This past week as a missionary, I did what I once considered real "missionary" things. I led a Sunday night ladies' Bible study entitled "The Titus 2 Woman." I oversaw a Wednesday night counseling course for future pregnancy center volunteers entitled "Self-Confrontation." I proofread my husband's sermon. I prepared our church bulletin. I prayed with a hurting woman. I phoned a shut-in.
But I also did things that never made my traditional "missionary" list. I worked as a realtor, finding an apartment for a displaced family in our church. I tried my hand as a housekeeper, making beds for newly-arrived teammates. I became a babysitter, watching five extra children so our colleagues could get settled. I showed up as chauffeur for errands that needed to be run. I pushed paperwork for financial and legal business that had to be completed.
Ministry comes in all shapes and sizes, and I've learned there really is no "missionary" list. I have realized - at least in our experience - that it's much more about going with the flow than sticking with the plan! In fact, being multifaceted is one of the things I love best about our life on the mission field. Come to think of it, "multifaceted" just may be another quality that my life shares with hers!
So perhaps the resemblance doesn't quite end at the title "missionary." Yet I still have a very long way to go in my understanding of strength, sacrifice and commitment for this life to which God has called us. Something tells me this new hero of mine never struggled with the temptation to waste time on Facebook or Candy Crush. Since she didn't have electricity, I doubt she stayed up later than advisable and regretted it with a short temper in the morning. And I am quite certain she rarely let an opportunity with her children slip through her fingers, since her missionary sacrifice required heartbreaking five-year separations from her beloved son and daughter.
The Bible tells us that our lives are surrounded by a "great cloud of witnesses." (Hebrews 12:1) I am grateful for biographies such as the story of "Granny Brand" which allow me to be a witness to a missionary life well lived. And I pray that I will consciously live my life, first of all unto the Lord, yet aware that others are witnesses to it as well.