“God, what do you want me to do now?” It seems I’ve asked that same question over and over as I’ve lived my life. Years ago, I was a new grad, the ink on my degree barely dry. Suddenly I was faced with a major decision—what should I do with my education? It was tempting to apply to grad school, sticking with what I knew. On the other hand, I was so tired of school! Maybe I should look for a job. Unfortunately, my degree was one of those lacking a clear career path. I spent hours praying, lost in a sea of choices.
It used to be that a missionary heading overseas would say good-bye to friends and family with little expectation that they’d ever see any of them again. It was a life-long commitment, and frequently that life would be very short.
These days, any Christian can be a missionary. According to David Livermore, author of Serving with Eyes Wide Open, “four to five million Americans participate in religious short-term mission experiences” each year, spending $2.25 billion (yes, with a “b”) to do so.
At the same time, there are a little over 1.6 million full-time Christian missionaries, most of whom work in already-evangelized areas (Frontier Harvest Ministries). The numbers may be off somewhat (it’s very hard to get an accurate accounting), but the picture is clear—short-term missionaries greatly outnumber full-time workers. Keep that in mind for a moment.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
How many times were we asked that as kids? And how many kids announce that they want to be a “nobody” when they become adults? We want to be astronauts, firefighters and doctors, or perhaps president. In many Christian families, the goal is more spiritual: pastor or missionary. The bottom line is, everyone wants to be significant.
I was raised with the message that “I could be anything I wanted” when I grew up. Of course that’s ridiculous. I’m such a klutz, I fell off my stool in art class in 8th grade (and the social fail of it obviously scarred me for life). Clearly, I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete… or a whole host of other things.