The Missionary Next Door
Every year, quietly and unobtrusively, thousands of missionaries pass through the waiting lounges of airports all over the world. They board planes headed for various destinations around the globe to give tirelessly of themselves and their resources for the singular purpose of fulfilling their mission: to help spread the gospel to those who are so desperately in need of it. They are the unsung heroes on the front lines who sling their Bibles, laptops, teacher’s notes, stethoscopes or cameras over their shoulders and make their way through a sea of unfamiliar faces in unfamiliar places to do the work that most people wouldn’t want to do.
But they aren’t the first generation to take these bold steps. They are the latest generation in a long line of men and women who have gone before them, breaking new ground, razing insurmountable barriers and extending the hand of brotherly love to those who don’t look or speak like them. I think of some of the most revolutionary missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Hudson Taylor who boarded a ship to China with the singular purpose of bringing the Bible to the men, women, and children of that country. Lottie Moon and Gladys Aylward who brought the hope of the gospel to countless women and children in China. Abraham La Rue who had a burning desire in his soul to bring the Advent message to China and who did so in the face of meager
resources. Their legacies live on today in the form of the countless millions of Chinese Christians. Amy Carmichael whose passion for the lost took her to India and led her to rescue babies from temple prostitution, thus literally raising an army of young women for Jesus. Anna Knight who took the Advent message to the women and children of India, working tirelessly to educate and save.
The list is as long as it is colorful demonstrating the powerful and transformative effect of global missions. Yet often the unsung heroes can also be found closer to home and they might not be found waiting in airport lounges but rather riding their bikes to work every morning.
That’s right this is the story of a bike riding missionary and no, not in some remote village in Asia but right here in Melbourne Australia.
Let me introduce you to my friend Ryan. Ryan is one of the most easy-going and affable people I have ever met, always ready to offer a wide-mouthed smile and a warm greeting. He’s the kind of extrovert that can get a crowd going quite easily and most people find themselves feeling at ease around him. Ryan is an R.N but beyond that, he’s a missionary R.N who, admittedly, occasionally finds himself on a plane to some far-flung location but more often finds himself on a bike riding to his mission field every morning. Ryan doesn’t see his workplace as just that, to Ryan his workplace is a mission field. A place where from 9-5, five days a week, week in, week out he has the opportunity to share the gospel with the people around him. One of those people is
Christty. Christty used to be an R.N. at Ryan’s workplace and each lunch break when a bunch of them would gather together to eat and talk, Ryan would share mind-boggling nuggets about the links between physical, mental and spiritual health. Many of his work colleagues were intrigued by his ability to combine his knowledge as a health professional with areas such as diet, nutrition and their impact on overall well being.
As his friendship with Christty grew Ryan felt comfortable enough to invite her to the weekly small group or CARE group he attended every Friday. Which is how I came to meet Christty, one Friday evening when she came over to our house for CARE Group. Christty is one of the quietest people I know, but she’s also one of the most thoughtful and kind. It wasn’t hard for our care group to embrace Christty as part of our family and we were blessed to have a front row seat to the work that God began to do in her life.
Christty comes from a home with a strong Buddhist background and yet she began to fall in love with the Bible and the God of the Bible gradually over time. My friend Grace and I had the privilege of having Bible studies with Christty and then of watching her give her life to Jesus in baptism. Today Christty is an active member of our local congregation and she is engaged in mission work of her own both in her local mission field and in the mission fields that are not so close to home.
Why is it that I am sharing this particular story? Especially within the framework of global mission? Well, because sometimes the mission field isn’t reached by boarding a plane. The mission field can be as nearby as your workplace, classroom, lecture theatre or local gym. The friend, colleague or classmate that might have no Christian background at all and show little interest in spiritual things could be the next missionary worker who works with you in the mission field. I hope this week you open your eyes and look around you. I hope you see the possibilities in the mission field right outside your front door.
Suki Goonatilleke lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two daughters. She is passionate about winning people for Jesus and has served in full-time ministry at Gateway Adventist Center. Her current ministry endeavors include being a stay-at-home mom by day and writer by night.