The idea of cross-cultural missions has always been odd to me.
As an evangelical Christian, I recognized the obvious need for it, but it never really struck me as something I could ever give my life to. I would sometimes see missionaries within the church or read their blogs online, and I couldn't quite identify or engage with their worldview. I mean, here were people that literally sold all of their stuff, loaded their kids onto an airplane, and touched down in a foreign country to preach the gospel. Why? Why would they just pack up and leave? Why would they put their family's relational development on the line? How are their kids going to be educated? Don't they know that people need Jesus in America? The aim of their lives was baffling to me. Not to mention, the way they wore socks under their sandals and a Hawaiian shirt to church services only served to perpetuate my perception of their radical abandonment. They stood out like a sore thumb, and it made me a little uncomfortable. I loved and appreciated their cause and their heart, but I was uncomfortable. To me, it was, indeed "their cause" and "their heart." Their "call" to be a foreign missionary must have been something special and clearly articulated from God, and it definitely wasn't a call that I had heard.
Interestingly enough, toward the beginning of our marriage, Morgan expressed a deep conviction for us to reach the unreached. Even though she hadn't yet developed a greater framework for understanding God's mission, she was made aware of hurting and unreached people in Thailand and knew that the gospel needed to be known there. To me, though, the phrase unreached peoples had always simply referred to those who weren’t followers of Christ. Why couldn't we simply reach the unreached and hurting here? Sure, Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations," but come on.
We're in America. The nations are basically in our backyard.
Sure Jesus said, "Go and make
disciples of all nations," but come on. We're in America. The nations are basically in our backyard.
We had been trying to reach the "unreached" in our own Grapevine, TX context, and had been regularly working in churches during our first 2 years of marriage. We were legitimately attempting to make disciples the best way we knew how. But the more we studied God's mission together, the more we felt him pushing us to explore and study disciple-making in different ways, and we began to seek out resources and opportunities to learn more. This gospel that we had been given and had been changed by was burning inside of us, and we needed to share.
A year later we decided to join a class called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement as a part of Morgan's internship at a local church. At the beginning of the class, Morgan remembers asking God to simply align our desires on the issue of our future, no matter what they might be. We had disagreed on what our involvement with cross-cultural mission would be for far too long, and she was ready for us to simply agree on something. By the end of the class, that prayer was answered.
Our Muslim, Hindu, atheist, and agnostic neighbors are considered "reached." Why? Because we live next to them.
Through a series of speakers, lessons, and reading materials, the Holy Spirit transformed my understanding of God's heart for all peoples. I had been frustrated, provoked, and challenged in theology, biblical understanding, and missional strategy, and God had brought me to the end of my rope. I was forced to see a different reality. "Unreached” from an evangelical perspective, means “those who have no access to the gospel.” In other words, our Muslim, Hindu, atheist, and agnostic neighbors are considered "reached." Why? Because we live next to them. We can share the gospel with them. They have access to us. Whether or not they are actually being reached by Christians is another matter. There are those, however, who have no access to the gospel, no representative of the gospel, no church every half-mile. Those people have no hope of an eternity with Christ, and it accounts for more than two-thirds of the world's population, specifically located in something called the 10/40 Window. 90% of the people in this window have no access to the gospel. That accounts for almost 3 billion people.
We both began to see that God's mission isn't simply centered around the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). Instead, it became clear that God has been on mission from the beginning, ultimately in the sending of Christ (Jn. 20:21). From God blessing Abraham’s descendants so that they might bless the entire world (Gen. 12:1-4), to the Old Testament prophets foretelling how God would make his Christ the heir and the light of the nations (Ps.2:8; Isa 42:6; 49:6), we saw that the scriptures were littered with missional motives from our sovereign God. Even more, the disciples made it their primary ambition to preach Christ where he had not yet been named (Rom. 15:20), and Christ, himself, told them that the end would not come until the gospel had reached the ends of the earth (Matt. 24:14; Acts 1:8).
We must be passionately pursuing God's fame among the nations because
God is passionately pursuing making his name famous among the nations.
It's for the sake of his name and for the joy of all peoples.
Habakkuk 2:14 says: "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." And we were missing out. We have the glorious opportunity to bring that knowledge to the ends of the earth. It was as if blinders had been removed from our eyes to see more of God's greater plan, a plan that did not begin with the great commission, but had been in place from the creation of man. Now we knew that God had indeed aligned our desires. How sweet it is to walk together in unified heart and mind raising the banner of the good news of God's kingdom.
And now we strive forward after prayerfully considering where we might serve and grow God's kingdom most effectively. Our calling to go is nothing more than the need for the gospel among the nations and the passion that God has given us to follow Him there. For a variety of reasons, we believe that the Lord has directed us toward Thailand. Morgan has had a heart to serve here for years, we have existing relationships with missionaries in Thailand, and the longer we live here, the more we fall in love with growing the church in this Southeast Asian context. Initially, we are planning to volunteer here from August through December in order to take steps toward permanent residence. Lord willing, we will then be returning in February 2016 to begin language school and continue working alongside The Family Connection Foundation. We are inexpressibly eager to witness God's kingdom in Thailand, and we would love for you to be a part of it as well