We Don’t All Cross The Ocean

At this point, I’d say pretty much everyone that is a part of my life knows about my plans to move to Uganda for two years. I’ve talked to many people that are fairly shocked by my decision to go. They are comforted by my financial security in my job but, I see uneasiness in the eyes of people that hear about my ministry experience and goals in Uganda.

People have treated me like I’m brave and courageous for going to a third-world country to do ministry. But I’ve never felt like that. To be honest, frequently I feel like I’m taking the easy way out. Sure, I’m moving into a culture I know very little about, leaving behind my normal comforts, but from a ministry standpoint, it could be a lot worse. I have friends that do ministry in countries they can’t speak the name of, countries where it is illegal to evangelize. I’m moving to a land where I’ve literally had Muslims come up to me at a public clinic and ask me to tell them about Jesus, and then immediately accept Him as their savior!

I sometimes feel I’m doing the easy thing because I’m going to Uganda where people are hungry for hope. Whether it’s Christ or not, people there are accustomed to the spiritual. This is not the case in America.

Being a missionary in America presents just as many challenges as anyone leaving the country. We live in a country that actively rebels against God. Consistently looking at pornography that destroys relationships is accepted as a normal part of life. Having sex with people you’ve met that day, is the basis of reality tv shows. Sexuality can sell everything from shampoo to tennis shoes. We live in a self indulgent society. We are materialistic, putting our worth in how much we own. We climb the ladder of our personal successes in order to glorify ourselves and our own accomplishments. We don’t put our hope in God because the American Dream teaches us to focus on self, after all, work harder and harder and you can achieve anything out of your own strength, right?

“I lift my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” -Psalm 121:1-2

We are taught to pick ourselves up by our boot straps, forgetting it’s Christ who saves us while we’re still in sin. Christ that rescues us from darkness. Our strength comes from Him. There’s nothing we can do to save ourselves, it’s only Him.

“For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast” -Ephesians 2:8-9

Americans suffer much less from poverty, starvation, and death from preventable diseases than Africans do, it’s true. We have extensive resources and technology, everything the world strives for, yet we live with hearts that are hardened.

I’ve talked to people, seen movies and read blog posts where Americans describe God as hateful, sadistic, scary, unjust. The startling number of people in my generation turning away from God makes my heart incredibly heavy.

Uganda undoubtedly has it’s need for Jesus too. The poverty, lack education and prevalence of witchcraft has been the subject of many of my prayers. For many reasons, God has called me to live and do ministry in Uganda, but I don’t want to forget the undeniable need for a more accurate depiction of God in America. It’s hard to find someone in our country that hasn’t heard the name of Jesus, yet so many are lost, so many turn away because they have been hurt by members of the church, they have yet to see someone living out the Christian lifestyle in a meaningful way. Many think they can do life better on their own without God, or they just never even think about Him and His love for them.

In the introduction to her book Compelled By Love, missionary to Mozambique, Heidi Baker says, “You see, where I live, the poor know they are poor; they know they are sick and hurting; and so they come and give their lives to Jesus by the hundreds every week around the country. But in your nation, your poor do not know they are poor, and your sick do not know they are sick unless they are dying of a disease and no one can help them. They look confident, and they appear as if they are together. But maybe they are not. So your job is a lot harder than ours.” Here she’s saying that people in America don’t always see that they need a savior, they believe they can take care of themselves if they just work harder.

I commend those that have the courage to lovingly minister to the people right around them that do not know God – missionaries that work amongst their own people group, in the face of ridicule and rejection, because they have a burning passion to bring the loving Jesus to a scornful nation.

With such a vast array of religions and cultures represented, the growing acceptance of different sexualities, our extreme materialism and yearning for earthly pleasures and comforts, constant changing laws, argumentative people eager to call Christians intolerant for not changing their beliefs to agree with every lifestyle, and so much more, the missionaries and churches here certainly have their work cut out for them. America is a battlefield. As life choices that rebel against God’s will are becoming more accepted, Christians have to prepare themselves for more persecution. We all have to reflect on the truths we stand firmly on.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  – Matthew 5:11-12

I applaud every Pastor, every Sunday school teacher, those that go into the prisons to minister, the business person that shares the hope they’ve found in Christ with their co-workers, youth pastors, and all those finding creative ways to minister to people in their everyday life. In Uganda, I minister to people that see me as just some white girl talking about that Jesus guy, people that are longing for something or someone to save them, but here, you are the truly brave ones.

To all those on the mission field in America: do not lose heart, my friends. Never stop loving the people around you, whether or not their beliefs and life choices line up with yours. Love them to the very best of your ability. I acknowledge you as you bring the gospel to the nations, every nation, including the US. Remember, it’s not your job to change people. God is in the business of transforming hearts and changing lives. Be obedient, do your part, and then leave the results up to God. No matter what, your Father in Heaven is deeply pleased with you.

Not all Missionaries cross the ocean.

Some of you may bless me for going. I say, God bless the missionaries that stay.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.” – 2 Corinthians 2:14

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