People think missionaries love to travel. We can’t wait to explore new places, live in a suitcase, and travel constantly. I’m sure such missionaries exist, but I haven’t met one yet.
Instead, God often calls missionaries to stay put in one place for a long time. Yes, that place happens to be in another country with its own culture, customs, language, and charm. If anything, finding contentment in staying put is just as much a strength for a missionary as a desire to travel might be.
This month marks our first anniversary of being on the road as missionaries raising support. In the past year we’ve visited people and churches in eleven states over the course of 33 weekends. For someone who didn’t travel much growing up, this year has shocked my system.
The Gospel of Luke begins Chapters 9 and 10 with Jesus sending his first missionaries. He starts with just the twelve in one chapter, followed by 72 more disciples in the next one. Jesus gives them the same mission he received from the Father – “to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” In order to accomplish this mission, he gave them specific instructions: don’t take anything with you because others will take care of you along the way. In other words, you’re just going to have to trust God to provide all your needs through his people.
My family has not followed this principle perfectly. We have plenty of bags, road snacks, and even one box fan that goes with us everywhere we go, not to mention expense reports. But we do rely on God to host us through his people. And what a blessing that is to receive.
Long before the Internet and telephones, here’s the system Jesus prescribed for the first missionaries he sent: “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house” (Luke 10:5-7).
Chaotic people rarely sign up for hospitality. Whether it’s been just me, Marci and me, or all five of us, I’ve been overwhelmed this past year at all the people who are promoting peace where God has planted them.
Some of them are in nice homes in the center of a city. Others are in a farm with only animals as near neighbors. Some have kids at home. Others have long had their nests empty. Some have a lot of this world’s riches. Others have just enough and are content anyways. Some are in a still moment in their life. Others are going through a storm, but somehow lying down with Jesus, resting peacefully in the midst of it. Some set us up in a nice hotel, but make sure to take the extra step in welcoming us, dining with us, and caring for us.
I don’t know if we always do a good job of declaring peace on every house when we enter, especially if our three children are released from hours in the van. Sometimes us parents are tired, stressed, or both. And yet before we leave for the next destination, I can always recall a time that we sat and listened to our hosts share their stories. Sure, they ask about Brazil and the road, and they mean it. Often they take one of our support envelopes or at least a prayer card.
As a pastor I was surprised how rarely people asked me about how I was doing or how they could pray for me, so I make it a point to ask my hosts that question every time. It’s not just pastors who are neglected. It’s all of us. No wonder peace is in such short supply these days.
I’m amazed at how God uses so many people to partner in his mission of proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom. There are those he sends like us. But we can’t go anywhere without those who remain.
God uses us all to make a difference. Luke tells us that the 72 disciples returned to Jesus overjoyed that they were cared for, that they healed the sick, and even drove out demons. Jesus responds, saying, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven,” and then he says, “do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:17-20).
Promoting peace begins at home. And there’s no better root from which peace will spring than the joy of knowing that our names are written in heaven. That spurs us on to share that joy with others any way we can.
Luke follows this up with Jesus rejoicing that God has revealed himself to the nobodies of this world, while plenty of kings and worldly geniuses have missed out. Luke then introduces us to the story of the Good Samaritan, where someone receives peace from the unlikeliest of people, concluded by Jesus receiving peace in his favorite home away from home, that of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
Sometimes people put missionaries up on a pedestal, thinking they are superhuman. We’re not. We just happen to answer God’s call to go, but we’re not the only ones answering his call. When you stay and promote peace in your own home, in your own neighborhood, in your own church, and in your own community, you too are answering God’s call.
Keep on promoting peace. Keep on hosting your family, your neighbors, and even the occasional missionary who passes through town.
Keep rejoicing that your name is written in heaven, and share in spreading that joy elsewhere, even to the uttermost part of the earth.