The man at the desk asked me, “Why are you here? Are you on mission?”
“Yes,” I answered, “I am.”
He wrote, ‘On Mission’ at the bottom of my Ebola Screening form, and sent me on my way. It is a standard form they fill out at each airport here because there are neighboring countries with Ebola. Once he took my temperature and contact information he moved on to the next person in line and left me with the question hanging in my mind, ‘Are you on mission?’
I have never thought of myself as a missionary, one who takes a religious message to another country, but here I am for the fourth time, bringing love and literacy to people in a refugee camp in Uganda. By definition that makes me one. However, I still resist the label of missionary. I’m not sure why, but I think it is because there is a subtle difference between being a missionary and living life on mission.
A traditional missionary goes in to a country on assignment. It is a project mindset rather than a lifestyle. The eternity of those you meet rests on your ability to convince them. It is on your shoulders to produce the fruit of saved souls. The performance mentality asks a certain kind of questions. Who is the target? How many people prayed the prayer of salvation? How many more to reach? Will the project will be over when you return home?
Whereas, if you are on mission, you simply live your life in a purposeful and intentional way looking out for day to day opportunities to love people with the love God has given you. It is not as much about the numbers of nickels and noses as it is about the people you meet along the way. Living on mission doesn’t only happen when you are in a foreign country, it happens wherever you are. You extend grace to everyone you meet and love them like Jesus did. You allow the burden of salvation to be His. Instead of making it your own responsibility, you rest in his ability to bring all those who are weary and heavy laden to himself. You listen to his voice and share what he says to share and let him do the rest. It requires deep connection to him and his work in your own heart to look into the hearts of people and tell them what you see. Being on mission is tougher in some ways than being a missionary, because it requires trusting in his voice and following it. It isn’t the number of doors you knock on or how many sermons you preach. It is watching God transform hearts in ways only he can do.
All of this has been flowing through my head because the man at the airport asked me one question. Most of the missionaries I know are on mission, but I have seen quite a few who live from trip to trip. This one question triggered my pondering mode. If my mandate is to go into all the world and preach the good news; is my life preaching the good news? What does it mean to go into all the world? Isn’t my community all the world? Is the word of my testimony pointing others to him? Am I paying attention to the people he has put into my life? Is what I am doing relational or transactional? My answers to these questions will define if I am a missionary teacher…or a teacher on mission.