Many years ago I was introduced to the children as ‘a real live missionary.’ We have laughed about it ever since. But when, recently, I was introduced as someone who used to be a missionary that made me sad, for I know that being a missionary is a calling and does not depend on location, financial support or lack of it, or even age, and we should all be missionaries.
I had to learn to be content to be a missionary in the East End of London before ever I went to the ‘uttermost parts of the earth.’
I had read about Mary Slessor, but did not know anything about present day missionary work when God first spoke to me. It was through hearing the scriptures read of how Jesus sent his disciples out into the villages. Somehow I knew this was a word to me. I presumed this would be the villages of UK as I had heard about a Caravan Mission to Village children.
Then God led me into the Apostolic Church and my eyes were opened to a wider field and met some ‘real live missionaries.’ Whenever they came to visit, from Africa, India or elsewhere, I felt God challenging me, Was I willing to go there?
Maybe I had to be willing to go before I could really pray for them? I told the Lord I would go anywhere for him, but not alone. I was hardly of the calibre of my friend Esther, who had already gone as a single missionary.
But Mr. Right did not appear, God’s call became more persistent, and teaching in London’s East End became even tougher. Was I regarding my missionary work as a way of escape?
I was praying, asking God where I was to go. Maybe Southern Ireland? It was certainly a mission field at that time and I had contacts there, and no scary mountains or vine bridges.
Then God spoke to me through his prophet. ‘Your calling is not to a person or to a place. It is a joyful abandonment to your God.’
And so God made me willing to be a missionary just where I was, and I believe God did do great things through me in those few years, though I didn’t see it at the time. But still his word persisted, that I would go abroad.
At last a request came for teachers or nurses with a missionary call to volunteer for the Australian mission fields and I knew I must answer. No Mr Right, or conviction concerning the place, but I wrote, expressing my willingness. There was a two year delay, and I must admit to some relief thinking that maybe all God had required was my willingness, but eventually I was all packed up and ready to go as a teacher to the Highlands of New Guinea.
A holiday, shortly before leaving, I stood on a bridge, watching the waters rushing over the brink to fall on the rocks below. I had to turn aside. This is what it felt like for me to answer this call, but the Lord gently assured me, ‘The river is not afraid.’
He reminded me of his word concerning a joyful abandonment to God’s will and knew he would work it all out.
Friends were coming to the airport to see me off. Again the fear engulfed me. ‘Lord, I won’t be able to do it,’ I whispered, ‘to leave all my friends and everything I know.’
In a picture I saw Jesus standing at the doors. He told me, ‘I am going. You can come with me or you can leave me.’
There was a crowd at Heathrow airport, singing and praying. The call came for my flight. I almost ran through the doors, for I could not leave Jesus, and he was there waiting for me.
A month in Australia before another long and scary lap of the journey, but again the Lord spoke. ‘Rejoice in your going forth,’ and gave me the wonderful assurance, ‘I am pledged to come with you and you will be able to turn readily and easily to me at all times as to a friend who is alongside.’ These words God was speaking to me are all in the Bible, but the Holy Spirit brings them as a living word to our hearts at just the right time. They are still hidden in my heart and continue to be a strength to me.
At last I landed at Laiagam in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea. I hadn’t any previous convictions concerning this place, but it wasn’t long before I wanted to live and die there and when after five years I returned to UK and was told I could not return, the Lord had to remind me of his word, concerning a joyful abandonment to his will and that my calling was not to a specific place.
And so God made me willing to work again in UK until I was eventually asked to go to Ghana and there again I felt at home in God’s will.
In Australia I had been given a word, to ‘gain a knowledge of the language in the place where you are going.’ Having learned the Enga language, now I had joy in learning Ashanti Twi.
After yet another five fulfilling years in Ghana God spoke about moving on. Was I to go back to Papua New Guinea? No, this time it to UK and specifically Wales, for I was to marry a Welshman. Yet another language to learn, though I have not yet become fluent in Welsh.
Five years as a minister’s wife and then Joel was retired from being a pastor with the Apostolic church, but we never considered ourselves retired from God’s calling in our lives We said we were re-tyred and used every opportunity to still serve him. When he died I had to learn the significance of those words, ‘…not to a person,’ and now as a widow and an octogenarian, many doors are still wide open for me to minister.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because I believe we are all called into the ministry, in whatever capacity, and we each need to know our calling is ‘not to a person or to a place, but a joyful abandonment to our God.’ And we can each turn to him as to a friend who is alongside, for he has promised he will never leave us or forsake us.
So have joy in being a ‘real live missionary,’ just where you are, and may we together prove what is that ‘good and acceptable and perfect (just right) will of God.’
(Romans 12: 2)