I mostly grew up in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, a Christian denomination which, in the light of the imminent return of our Lord Jesus Christ, strongly emphasizes cross-cultural missions. This wasn’t just rhetoric: every year our little Midwestern church had oodles of missionaries come to visit from faraway places like Ghana, Irian Jaya, Chile, Liberia, and so many others. They blanketed our tight-knit community with amazing stories of what God was doing around the world and, by extension, what he was capable of doing among us. It was an amazing church for me to spend my formative years in the faith!
As I prepare to head out on the mission field, the memory of these incredible men and women has forced me to put a very serious question to myself: “Why do I think that I am called to serve God abroad in missions, especially in Argentina?” After all, every Christian is called to be involved in cross-cultural missions, but not every Christian is called to go as a missionary: how do I know that I’m the one called to go? I wrestled with this question for a long time before coming to an answer that, I believe, honors the zeal of Almighty God, and it’s important that people interested in partnering with me in this mission ask this question.
Over the last few months in the Resurrection Times, we have taken a look at various questions related to missions: we looked in May at what missions is, in June at why we are to be involved in missions, in July at how we can be involved in missions, and in August at why missionaries are needed in Argentina. The purpose of this article is to answer the question put forward above: why is God calling me to missions in Argentina? Due to the fact that God’s calling comes in the course of living life, my answer to this question involves telling the story of large sections of my own life. I will therefore be moving autobiographically, telling first how God called me to missions generally, and then second how God called me to missions in Argentina in particular.
As a kid growing up in the Midwest, the last thing that I wanted to be when I grew up was a missionary. Even though I grew up in a church that emphasized cross-cultural missions in a big way, I had little desire to forsake comfortable living in the United States to live abroad, or to forsake my own dreams and passions to follow the unknown path that the Lord might have for me. At the root of my concerns was not really a distrust of missions, but a genuine distrust of God himself and his loving will for my life.
However, in the providence of God this changed dramatically when I was fourteen years old. Barry Jordan, a missionary serving in Indonesia came and spoke to our youth group and left me with a simple but powerful message: the safest place that we can be is in the center of God’s will. In other words, as we serve God how and where he calls and trust his fatherly love and sovereign will for our lives, our path is not only good but is better than anything else that we could come up with for ourselves. He is our Creator and Savior, and whether he calls us to serve him in San Diego or in Timbuktu, whether we are in plenty or in want, whether life is pleasure or life is suffering, we find true peace in trusting him and find joy in serving him. It was at that time that God began gently calling me to ministry and to missions.
Still, God’s calling at that point in my life was rather general and vague: I longed to serve him in wherever vocation to which he might call me, but I was unsure about the details. For this reason, when it came time to head to university I chose to major in Mechanical Engineering with an eye towards serving God with a Christian foreign relief and humanitarian organization. But then midway through my undergraduate studies the Lord began to make it clear that I was called to serve him specifically as an ordained minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whether in the United States or abroad, and I began planning on heading to seminary soon after graduating.
I didn’t actually head directly to seminary after graduating though. Instead, it became apparent that it would be wise to spend time serving God in concrete ways before diving into graduate school, and this promised to provide an ideal opportunity for me to put a call to cross-cultural ministry to the test. Consequently, I relocated for a year to Trujillo, a large city smack on the coast of Peru, and served 24/7 as a volunteer in a Christian orphanage. This proved to be the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life, and there were whole months where I swore I would never go anywhere else as a missionary ever again. But these frustrations passed as I came to a deeper knowledge and love of the Lord, and by the end of my year in Trujillo I knew that the Lord was calling me to missions, and most likely to missions in South America. Though I left Peru to attend seminary in the United States with sorrow at leaving the mission field, I left with the purpose of returning as a minister of the Gospel and missionary to South America.
This direction and intentionality towards missions permeated both my education at Westminster Seminary California and the beginning of my ministry at the Anglican Church of the Resurrection. During seminary I returned twice to South America to serve as an intern at Anglican churches, first in Peru and then in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I spent most of my time during that second internship in Argentina stubbornly insisting to myself that the Lord was calling me to missions in Peru; after all, I had spent so much time there and had acquired a deep love for its people and culture. But by the end of my time in Buenos Aires, I had become deeply convicted that God was calling me next to serve him in missions specifically in Argentina.
I was not alone in perceiving this call from God. Over the course of the following year the Anglican bishop and clergy of Buenos Aires recognized God’s call and extended an invitation for me to serve in ministry among them. Similarly, the leadership of my own church in the United States recognized the same call from the Lord and committed itself to train and to prepare me to minister in Argentina. What’s more, the following year the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders (SAMS) also recognized the Lord’s call upon my life and accepted me as a missionary candidate and member of their Society. In light of the convergence of my own inward sense of the Lord’s call and the clear outward call of God through church leaders around the world, I have gratefully committed myself to pursue service as a missionary in Argentina.
It has been amazing to see God has confirmed his call in his perfect timing, and it has been my joy to place my “Amen” on his will for where and how I am to serve him. His purposes and his plans will last forever, and I am deeply thankful to be a part of his work in reconciling the world to himself in Christ. I encourage you, if you have never done so, prayerfully both to consider how the Lord may be calling you in your own life to serve him and also to discern whether he would have you partner with me in this mission in Argentina to which he has called me!
This is the fifth in a series of six articles by Fr. David on cross-cultural missions and the Christian life, initially published in the October 2010 edition of The Resurrection Times.