“You know, I just don’t think a person should have to go all the way around the world. We have problems here.”
I went on a few mission trips throughout my teenage years. Some trips were local, others international. As I fundraised for some of these trips, certain friends and family members made a good point: why couldn’t I stay closer to home and serve people here?
Their question wasn’t malicious or illogical. We are supposed to serve people around us. When Jesus said to go to the ends of the earth, He included Jerusalem (where they were), Judea and Samaria (their region), and then foreign lands in the description. Some have interpreted this verse to give more importance to local service than to international service because Jerusalem was written first. (Acts 1:8).
In looking more deeply into the verse, the greek word “te” (translated as ‘both’) means “not only” in many circumstances. So, we get to witness not only in Jerusalem, AND ALSO (the greek word “kai”) in Judea and Samaria AND ALSO the ends of the Earth.
It seems to me that God likes all places, and wants us to witness to all of them.
This doesn’t mean that all of us are called to Africa, or Asia, or Antartica. We all have different roles. Some will go to the nations in person, others will send people, others will be intercessors. Our process of ‘going to the nations’ does not have to be identical to our brothers’. Also, America IS included in “the nations,” and it is not bad to witness close to home.
BUT in deciding whether to witness locally or internationally…I believe only one thing should be at the forefront of our minds: Where is God leading me?
And in that discussion, I believe God could be calling some of us abroad for a few reasons.
Jesus was on the move. Our greatest personal example went around and evangelized. He spent a substantial amount of time with some. With others, He met them, healed them, and kept moving. He shows that we will be called long term to some people, but sometimes God could be call us somewhere simply for a day. The Spirit of the Lord (which is in us believers) doesn’t need years to spread God’s news. Sometimes, God knows that witnessing will take more time. Some (other) times, God wants us somewhere for a short amount of time.
The saying “brothers and sisters” (to whom we are called to witness) does not necessarily only mean ‘Americans.’ Yes, living in America gives us a beautiful opportunity to love other Americans, BUT people in Iceland are just as much my brothers and sisters. In God’s eyes, we are all His children that He pursues. God does not have to call Americans to speak to people in America, and Icelandic people to speak to people in Iceland. God could (and I think He does this often) call people from one nation to another nation’s people. He may give you a piece of knowledge or some inspiration that He wants you to share with someone thousands of miles away. When He wants this, He provides a way, and He often provides a way for others to partner in it as well (prayer and fund-raising). Loving our brothers and sisters in other countries can be done in multiple ways- praying for them, donating, or considering them in world issues. BUT sometimes, we may be encouraged by God to love a specific group of our brothers and sisters by going to their city, giving them a hug, praying for them- putting our hands on their arms, encouraging them by looking into their eyes. To God, all people are worth the effort. We may be surprised at who he wants us to meet and encourage.
Often times, we won’t hear God say, “Go to Guatemala.” There will be times when God calls us to specific places and people, and other times when He gives us a choice of what to do. God relates to us in the ways He knows we need. Maybe God talks to you by giving you a peaceful feeling about moving forward. This ‘calling’ looks different for everyone.
No matter the way in which we feel called to something, we can stop putting God in a box. Also, we do not have to feel guilty for serving abroad…or even enjoying international missions. It is not bad to like and learn from traveling. It is not bad to desire to obey God by going to the nations in person. It is GOOD to act on where we think God is leading us. He may want you (personally) in your hometown, but we cannot limit Him to that. God’s ways are mysterious…and will not always make financial or logical sense to us, but that does not make them invalid. We can also trust that God will help us discern. He does not want us anxiously searching for our plan, but if there is a time in your life when you feel a strong, divine urge to “go to Guatemala,” don’t hesitate only because “you could do that work at home.” God doesn’t have to play by the world’s rules.
Published for Grafted Magazine