Since I was accepted as a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators, some people have asked me how I became interested in “cross-cultural mission”, or even how God called me to “become a missionary”.
I normally say that cross-cultural mission (although, isn’t all mission at least a little cross-cultural?) has been on my heart for almost as long as I can remember, and that God has brought me to this point through a long process of prayer, consideration and personal transformation. I might sometimes go into the detail of how exactly I became interested in bible translation and how I came to the conclusion that this is God’s will for me at this time.
There’s one big problem with this bog-standard answer, though. It makes it sound like this is all about me, when it isn’t - it’s about God.
It’s His mission, after all.
He was the one who chose not to give up on our broken world, but to set in motion His plan to bless all the nations through a flawed and fledgling family. He stepped into our messiness in the person of Jesus, and showed us what it truly means to be human. He reached out with compassion to the rich and the poor, the ‘in’ crowd and the outcast, the healthy and the sick, the ‘righteous’ and the ‘sinner’. He proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven, and he lived it, with perfect integrity. He loved to the point of dying for people who hated him.
In short, the God of the bible is a God who reaches across the most extreme of all cultural divides – the divide between heaven and earth - with unbounded love and unfathomable humility. The call to mission is nothing more, or less, than a call to faithfully reflect His character to the world around us: to be the image-bearers we were made to be. “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
For me, the call to mission has led me to develop a heart for bible translation, because I long for every person to be given every opportunity to see themselves in the light of God’s big story. It’s not about getting books on shelves; it’s about making Jesus known, and that is enormously exciting, because Jesus is most definitely worth knowing.
Let me be clear, though: I’m not trying to say that every Christian should be a bible translator. I’m saying that we’re all called to take part in the cultivation of God’s Kingdom, and that’s going to look different for each of us at different times. Investing in relationships with work colleagues or international students, refugees or next-door neighbours; bringing peace to conflict and healing to division; showing and speaking God’s love to people who seem broken beyond hope, or to people who seem to have everything; growing individually and collectively as worshippers, givers, pray-ers, stewards, life-sharers, disciples; all this is Kingdom work.
Back to me for a second: next week marks the start of a lot of changes in my life. I’ll move away from Southampton, and from the friends I’ve made over the past six years (although I’ll still be part of Portswood church). I’ll start training to work full-time within the field of bible translation. I’ll stop living on my own income, and start relying on the support of friends. It’s big stuff, and slightly scary, and I’ll certainly need plenty of prayer and practical help.
But I won’t have suddenly ‘become’ a missionary.
I’ve been part of God’s mission (sometimes willingly, sometimes reluctantly) since I became part of His family. We all serve a missional God - a God who crosses borders - and He calls us to partner with Him, wherever we are, to humbly proclaim and lovingly live out His Kingdom here on earth.
Isn’t that exciting?