We were the most unlikely missionaries. Though I grew up in a serious evangelical family, missionary service was simply not on my radar. Our church welcomed missionaries whenever they visited, and we gave generously to support their labors. But I don’t remember our church ever making a public appeal for members of the congregation to consider going and serving themselves. Missionaries were sort of like star athletes: one might admire their gifts and cheer on their labors, but one didn’t actually expect to join their ranks.
After the Lord worked to call my family into missionary service, we made an interesting discovery: missionaries are men and women beset with all the same failings, flaws, and frailties as all the rest of us. True, they can tend to be a little peculiar; living cross–culturally can have interesting effects upon one’s behavior, mannerisms, and perspective. (To this day, I regularly speak to our pets in Chinese, compose little songs in Chinese, and occasionally slip into Chinese when speaking to friends or in public.) Missionaries can be a bit weird, but they are not star athletes – an elite corps to which admission is reserved for only the brightest and best prospects.
If we read our Bibles more closely, we would remember this more easily: how many of the original apostles and evangelists were ordinary people before the Lord called them to spread the gospel? What was required of them was not blazing academic aptitude or stunning linguistic skills; what was required was simply faith in the promises of Jesus – and a willingness to follow where he led.
The same has remained true in every age of Christian missions since the apostles. William Carey is most famous for his great missionary rallying cry: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” But for me, the most encouraging quote from Carey is slightly less famous: “I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.” Carey’s greatness was that he plodded after Jesus all the way to India – and persevered through many dangers, toils, and snares.
What makes missionaries distinct is not that they are particularly extraordinary people, but that they serve an extraordinary God – and they believe it … and therefore believe that Jesus is worth everything.
What makes missionaries distinct is not that they are particularly extraordinary people, but that they serve an extraordinary God – and they believe it. They look at Jesus, the eternal Lord of Love, who crossed the ultimate frontier to rescue sinners. They look at Jesus, the creative Word of God, who became an infant who could speak no words. They look at Jesus, the Glory of his Father, who sacrificed the comforts of life in heaven to live and die for their salvation. Missionaries see that Jesus gave everything, and therefore believe that Jesus is worth everything.
One of the reasons missionaries write their stories is to encourage others to see this supreme worthiness of Jesus – and to follow him to the ends of the earth. Do you believe that Jesus has given everything for you? Do you believe that Jesus is worth everything he could ask of you? Do you wish others could see this, too?
If so, then the question is: why not you? The need of lost souls, and the need for cross–cultural Christian witnesses, remains as great as ever. What if the Lord wants you to become the next among us “most unlikely missionaries”?
J.M. Gurvsy (a pen name) is a gospel minister in North America. He and his family served in China from 2017–2019. Their full story, The Most Unlikely Missionaries, is now available in electronic or print.