At the young age of twenty, I have already been on three cross-cultural mission trips. Engaging in the daily lives of those in the Philippines, the Yucatan Peninsula, and Southeastern India has changed my life and opened my eyes to things I will never see again. I have a heart for ministries overseas and will be returning to India this summer to serve with orphans, some of whom have special needs, for a month.
While overseas ministry is very important to me, I learned a long time ago that I also have a very important job of ministering here in my Kansas hometown. Too often we focus on feeding the hungry in Africa, evangelizing in Turkey, and teaching English in China that we tend to forget about the lost souls we encounter every day. We all come in contact with people in our day to day lives in our own communities who need Jesus just as much as a prostitute in Thailand does. We focus so much on sending out foreign missionaries that we forget to send out missionaries in our own neighborhoods. We give money to help children in Cambodia go to camp, but we forget about the school full of kids down the street who also need a place to go to hear about Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong – I think that foreign missions is INCREDIBLY important, which is why I am financially and physically involved with it as much as possible. There is nothing like worshipping with hundreds of Filipino teenagers who are hearing about Jesus after coming to camp straight from the drug ridden streets. There is nothing like hearing the stories of how God has changed the lives of these teenagers, many of whom are leaders of gangs, have been incarcerated, and have murdered people before. There is nothing like holding a sweet, giggling baby with cerebral palsy who finally has a chance at life in a special needs orphanage in India. And there is nothing like engaging in a completely different culture for two weeks as you experience God in ways you would not be able to in America.
But I think there is more we can, and should, be doing on the home front.
I don’t know about you, but my overseas missions experiences usually last a couple of weeks every year or so. What we forget is that there are 50 other weeks in the year. What a shame to waste those fifty weeks because our mission trip is yet to come. Every day, we step out of bed into a mission field. We have opportunities to change the lives of those who cross our paths daily, and too often we take those opportunities for granted.
I started working as a barista at a small, family run coffee shop almost three years ago. When I started, it was just a fun job making drinks and baking pastries. As time has gone on, however, I have realized that wasting this opportunities that this job provides is shameful.
Every day, I come into contact with at least a hundred people during a shift. I have the chance to either make their day or ruin it. The taste they will leave with in their mouth is likely going to be the taste I leave there over the taste of their vanilla latte.
As a follower of Jesus, I am called to love my neighbors and serve others. To live my life as though my job is my mission field is to live with that in mind. I am called to treat each customer as Christ would, no matter how cranky, rude, or difficult they may be. I am to put myself aside and selflessly serve each person who walks through the doors as if I was serving Jesus Himself an iced mocha. I am to forget about my problems, put a smile on my face, and genuinely care about each person who steps foot in my mission field so as to share the love of Jesus with them in the most basic of ways – simply caring.
People are to notice a difference in us if we truly live the lives that Christ has called us to radically pursue. Whether we are different by being extra nice to a waitress who has had a rough night, by buying the meal of someone behind us at a restaurant, or by simply listening to someone who needs to talk, there are many practical ways to show the love of Jesus on a daily basis.
While I am a huge advocate of overseas missions, don’t forget about what you can be doing at home. Look for opportunities to make your job your mission field. Who knows, you may actually end up enjoying going to work. I know I do. And as long as I keep treating my job as service to God, I know that I will continue enjoying it. Don’t waste the situations you are in. You are in them for a reason. Use those opportunities to make a difference. You won’t regret it, the blessings are endless.