Written by Mary Strother
There is a door for each of us, a chosen direction for our lives. Some people do not reach this doorway without hardship along the way; their road may seem unstable. The call to the life of a missionary is no different. For those whose lives and careers are impacted by missions work, it can be a shock to their system to change the course of their lives so radically from what they have always accepted as the social norm to a life now dedicated to living with less. Even at a biblically centered university like Biola, tackling the missions career can take a great deal of courage and sacrifice, and it is often a road that is long and rife with struggle for the student who decides to take it.
Hearing the Call
Robyn Nakamura, a sophomore sociology major, says she feels God calling her to missions. It’s still hard for her to admit that she feels the call, however.
“I don’t know why… non-Christian people… don’t understand.” She seems to struggle with her words for a moment before going on, “You don’t understand unless you’re a Christian and you see the need. It’s not just the humanitarian side in me, it’s the God side of me.”
Nakamura spent the three months of her past summer in Ukraine with mission organization Josiah Venture. They served churches in the former communist country and helped to lead English camps for young Ukrainians. Her work as an intern this summer was a result of the trip she took to Ukraine two years ago with her church youth group.
“I loved that specific country and those people, and so I was pretty dead-set on going back after,” she says, nodding. “I knew when I left … it was the first time I ever really felt like God was like, ‘Yeah, you’re going to be back here in a little bit.’” says Nakamura, the light in her eyes and the glow on her face obvious as she speaks about Ukraine. Her heart for the people she has grown to care about is apparent.
Addressing the Fear
However, the love in her heart for the country didn’t stop a seed of fear from being planted at the thought of telling others her ambition to follow Christ’s call to become a missionary.
“Since I spent all summer in Ukraine, I was still kind of confused on what I wanted to do, and I was just like, ‘OK, God, please give me more direction on what you want me to do. If it’s missions, I’ll go, but if it’s staying in the States and being a light in an office job, then I’ll do that too,’” Nakamura says.
Now, however, this fear has subsided.
“I think that God has put inside of me no fear, just in the past couple of months and seeing that people across the world need to know about this and if you have a passion to go out there, then go!” Nakamura passionately declares, all sense of fear gone from the way that she speaks about missionary work.
The booth at the career fair in elementary school rarely brought anyone to speak on the riches of mission work. Such a profession, then, seems to be one that must be sought out when the call is heard. The decision to declare it to the world is one that Nakamura, and junior Jennifer Hines, are now coming to terms with.
Reactions to the Missions Decision
Hines came to Biola two years ago as a nursing major before switching to intercultural studies in spring 2012. When asked about the reactions of the people closest to her at her desire to be a missionary, her face seems to represent a myriad of emotions. Some happiness, some regret.
“My mom has been amazingly more and more supportive of this,” Hines says. Her mother had been reluctant to accept the change of course at first, and Hines’ father had wanted her to continue with the nursing field.
“My oldest brother is an atheist, so of course he thinks it’s completely pointless to be a missionary,” she adds.
Though it doesn’t seem to be holding back her future career as a missionary, Hines did share that sometimes she also feels the fear that many Christian university students have — the instability of missions work as a lifestyle choice.
“My ambition is much more eternal,” she says confidently. “…Even though I’m spending a lot of money, I may not in the end get that much money back from whatever career I choose. I think eternally [missions work] has a lot of value,” she says.
Embracing Evangelistic Confidence
The joys that come from the call to the missions field, however, have far outweighed the negative fears for sophomore intercultural studies major Tim Elliott. In a two-week mission trip to Uganda this past summer, learning how to share his faith with confidence became a great skill for Elliott, a feat he doesn’t take lightly.
“During the trip I read the book ‘The Case for Christ’,” he mentions, glancing down as if he could picture the book in his hands, “and it really solidified some stuff. And then we did some evangelism teaching, and then we actually did outreach. And so after that teaching I was all pumped and ready to go … I had a real thirst to share my faith.”
His evangelizing was not limited to those who had not heard of Christ in Uganda. On the flight home, he discussed Christianity openly with a young girl, addressing her issues with the faith and even giving her a copy of ‘The Case for Christ.’ Bringing the call to evangelize full circle, Elliott has also been ministering to his two best friends back home, introducing them to Christ — and yes, giving them copies of the same book which had so greatly aided Elliott.
“God just gave me the courage and the ability to open those doors,” Elliott says, adding that it was clear that God had worked on his heart during his time spent in Uganda.
Moments of Decision
God’s call on certain people to the mission field, whether overseas or in the United States, can be a daunting one and an uncertain road. It’s a hard journey to relate to for those who don’t feel that call themselves. It’s seems all too easy to assume that we can plan out our lives with a degree of certainty when really God has been preparing our hearts for a divine purpose we may never even have looked for. Though the ideals of these three students may have begun with the American dream, they soon found an even greater challenge and reward in living outside of the white picket fence and extending a hand to their neighbor, their brother or sister in Christ.
All it took for them was one moment in a foreign country when they truly connected with a child of Christ who did not know Him. One moment in which they stepped without fear across the threshold of the door that God was holding open before them. All it took was one moment — the moment they picked up the proverbial telephone to answer the undeniable call of God.