The month or so that I spent working with Tamar Center Korat completely reshaped my view on missions. And that's saying a lot coming from me, raised in a family actively involved in missions for (at least) four generations.
I always thought missionary life was more of a fate than a choice, and not a happy one at that. I never considered myself suitable for missions. Street evangelism, volunteering in refugee camps or leading Sunday school in some village in a faraway tropical country is simply not for me. I really don't deal well with the sun. I'm not that much into kids. And I'm just not interested.
That's what I kept saying for years and look where I ended up: doing children's ministry in Thailand—the hottest and sunniest place I've ever visited— and not only did I survive but I had the time of my life. Because, I came to realize that those were just excuses covering up the fear that if, indeed, I did end up on the field, I wouldn't have anything to give.
And it turns out that I have.
In Thailand I finally saw that missionary work really is all about loving people. Simple as that. Sure, I knew it before, but now I know that it actually does work in practice. That loving is in itself practical. It is playing with the kids; greeting the neighbors; helping out with cleaning; cutting down a tree; binding a bleeding toe; accepting a gift; teaching origami or simply smiling - all those simple things that I and my team had been doing, sometimes without even thinking.
Understanding the value of such small acts has been a huge lesson for me: I can actually make a difference with the skillset that I have. I don't have to become the missionary stereotype to bless and serve people. God can use me the way I am wherever I am - this has been the truth He has been drilling into me throughout my outreach. God is the one doing the heavy lifting anyway, so I should just relax, enjoy and be ready to act whenever human hands or smiles are needed.
And then there was the Tamar Center Korat team itself. I don't think I've ever seen a group of people working so cohesively as a team. What inspired me the most was observing them live out the love with both passion and perseverance. Week after week, year after year they have been going to those villages that we also visited. And they didn't have the advantage of being the blond newcomer to smoothen the way like I did. Sometimes people would be indifferent, sometimes they would be angry and sometimes they would backslide, but the team would keep on going back. Hearing all those stories I really came to admire the team and I wish I could grow to be more like them: that I could learn to serve like them and love persistently like them.
And if people like the Tamar staff is what people in general have in mind when they talk about missionaries, then not only am I willing to accept the term but I would be proud to be called as such. That's quite a change, no?
DTS outreach team from Lonavala, India
|“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” |
― Martin Luther King Jr.