On February 2019, I went on a month-long trip to the Philippines, where I shadowed a missionary. I knew I was interested in missions (God-willing), but I did not know where or how I could fit in. I prayed and talked to a number of people, one thing led to another, and I was introduced to Vera Khor, whom I had met briefly at the Culture Meets Scripture Workshop organized by Wycliffe 3 months prior.
I first started thinking about missions 3 years ago in my final year of university. Eager to find out more, I attended the GO Conference held in Penang, where I was exposed to an array of different mission organizations, e.g. Wycliffe Bible Translators, Youth With A Mission (YWAM), Operation Mobilization (OM), Interserve, just to name a few. I was already familiar with OM, having volunteered onboard Logos Hope for 2 weeks. Being an introvert interested in language, culture and the Bible, I thought Wycliffe might also be a good fit.
I also knew that pure interest and enthusiasm would not be enough. What if I did not have what it takes to be a missionary, or what if God did not call me, and I was utterly mistaken? “I am willing, Lord, please use me if You will,” I prayed.
Some people speak of a dramatic “calling” involving a dream, Bible verse, or a prophetic revelation, and some say “the need constitutes the call”. For me, it was a gradually increasing conviction of the importance of the work of the gospel, awareness of the many needs in the field, and a growing desire to be a part of that work. Of course, this does not mean that everyone should go full-time, or that secular work is not important. If everyone went full-time, who would support them? No matter what capacity we are to serve, we are all called to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).
Missionaries do not and cannot work alone. It takes partnership from every part of the body of Christ, the global church in order to advance His kingdom. Everyone can be a part of missions – whether to go, to give financial support, or to offer much-needed prayer support. I thank God for so many brothers and sisters in Christ who are faithfully partnering with gospel workers, and being good witnesses at their workplace, wherever they are, whatever they are doing.
In the first 2 weeks in Davao City, we had workshops, where I was exposed to the basics of Bible translation, and the different stages of the project. Apart from that, I was exposed to different roles in Wycliffe, e.g. literacy, developing audio Bibles and other materials for scripture engagement, multilingual education, oral Bible storying, ethnoarts etc. I met many missionaries, who dedicated their whole lives to God, and are now in their 60s or 70s. It also struck me that most of them will retire soon, but who will take their place? I pray for God to raise more young people to fill in the gaps, because indeed the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37).
It took 2 God-fearing women more than 20 years of sacrificial service to enable a group of minority people in the Southern Philippines to have a voice, and for them to have the New Testament in their own language. By the grace of God, after being transformed by His Word, in January 2019 the Obo Manobo people have finally taken ownership of the translation of the Old Testament (read more about them at omalracdi.org). If you would like to step in to fulfill their needs and organize a short term mission team to help them repair their 17 year old building in Sayaban, North Cotabato, do contact the Wycliffe office at firstname.lastname@example.org
Seeing and hearing their story also gave me a newfound respect and appreciation for the Bible, which is freely available in more than 1 language I know, with plenty of different translations to choose from and a wealth of other resources that come with it. On top of that, we also have many aids in audio and video form. I vowed never to take them for granted again!
In thinking about missions, and shadowing missionaries for a month, I also realised that missionaries are only human. They are not super-Christians on a pedestal, they are just like you and me, except they are willing to be used by God. Of course, it will not be a bed of roses, there will be challenges, but God will see us through. Also, I feared the part where I had to learn to live “by faith”. Does that mean I have to give up my comfortable life to have an unstable, miniscule salary and eat grass for the rest of my life, with no turning back?! On the contrary, no! Serving God is truly a privilege, and missionaries are the most humble, blessed and generous people I have met. Their blessings are not always material (though it can also be), but I can tell you, they really do not lack!
Being an organized person who loves to plan, all along I have been obsessed with wanting to know God’s precise plan for my future, so I can “help” God help me take the most efficient route to my destination. I was always trying to do things my way but never really learning to depend on God, or trusting Him to give me the best. We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps (Proverbs 16:9). Do not hand God a piece of paper to sign, hand God an empty piece of paper, and let Him write your story.
In our present day world where we are often spoilt for choice, it can also seem confusing when we are faced with important decisions. But God reminded me that He has given us free will, and areas of freedom. When we make decisions, it is not so much the actual decision that matters to God, but our holiness in making these decisions. After all, He has already revealed to us, that His will for us is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). As our desires line up with God, we will start to desire what He desires for us.
So what if you are still not sure? Do not ask “why”, but rather, ask “why not”?? Prayerfully take a step anyway, go for short-term missions. Remember God will always guide you. Even if you do not end up going for long-term cross-cultural missions abroad eventually, you can certainly serve wherever you are right now!
Amy Ting is a dentist who is actively considering long-term missions, and has currently embarked on a 2-year internship with her church in preparation for the next step.