The Call to Missions

I am about a third of the way through a book my sister gave me for my birthday. It’s titled The Insanity of God, written by Nik Ripken. (The author writes under a pseudonym because of the nature of his work.)

The Insanity of God is gripping, the kind of story that makes you laugh and cry, and sometimes both at the same time. It slices you in half with the poignant questions of God’s presence in the darkest places on earth. If you have a heart for underprivileged people in the world, you need to read it!

Nik Ripken was converted when he heard God speaking to him in the corner of the cheese factory where he worked, and his natural follow-up to that was to go into missions. His wife Ruth was much more properly prepared for the red tape of working for an organization, being raised as a minister’s daughter and always being one to help with church events. I laughed when I read this about what happened when they went to the mission organization to receive an overseas assignment:

“The committee members were clearly impressed with Ruth from the start. She told her story of being called to serve God overseas as a third-grader, how her sixth-grade writing project had helped confirm a specific calling to Africa, and how her summer experience in Zambia during college had given her a realistic picture of third-world living and erased any doubts that she might have had about her career plans.

“When they asked me the same question about when I had received my call, I looked around the meeting room and simply said, ‘I read Matthew 28.’

“They thought that maybe I had misunderstood the question. They patiently explained that a special calling was required before someone could go out into the world and do this kind of work. I was not trying to be clever or disrespectful, but I responded, ‘No, you don’t understand. I read Matthew 28 where Jesus told his followers, “GO!” So I’m here trying to go.’

“That prompted a thirty-minute explanation about the distinction between the call to salvation and the call to ministry. What was required, I was told, was then a call to take the Gospel out into the world, and perhaps even a fourth call to a specific place in the world. Then they asked me what I thought about what they had said.

“I was young and naïve enough to think that when they asked me that, they really wanted my opinion. So I gave them my opinion. ‘Well, it appears to me,’ I told them, ‘that you all have created a “call” to missions that allows people to be disobedient to what Jesus has already commanded all of us to do.” (The Insanity of God, pg. 69-70)

I laughed, and then I cried.

I have never doubted that Jesus wants all of us to go into all the world with the Gospel. But so often I don’t know how to go.

A few years ago, I decided to help more with the various projects my church had going. I enjoy serving, and I thought it would be good for me to get more involved. So when they asked for volunteers, I signed up to help with the cookie booth at the Mennonite Relief Sale.

Mixing up cookies with a bunch of other cheery, flour-dusted ladies was fun, and I enjoyed my hours of working at the sale. Or at least I thought I did.

On my way home, my chest ached with emptiness. The emptiness grew and grew until it screamed through my being and roared in my ears. What had I just done? Mixed and baked cookies to save the world?

That night, I woke up during the night and couldn’t go back to sleep. My heart was shattering. I crept out to the living room and keeled over the couch, weeping. Is this all the Christian life is about? Go to church every Sunday and help with cookies and things several times a year? Is this all that God expects of me?

Later when I told a few of my church friends about that experience, they seemed a little puzzled. What’s wrong with baking cookies for a relief sale? Isn’t that part of building God’s kingdom, too? I could not explain how such an innocent thing felt fake to me; like such a trite offering in response to the weight of God’s call, such a cheap penance for my easy life.

Reading Ripken’s story, I understood a little his deep longing to follow Jesus coupled with the misunderstanding of his faith-community. I understood his desire to extend a loving hand to the desperately needy people around him.

My life is posh compared to what Ripken experienced working in Somaliland. I love my town, but I still don’t know how to reach the broken people. My background, although it is precious to me, did not fully prepare me for touching life outside of that Christian context. I feel a tearing-apart in my soul. God, I hear your call. I know the call to missions is for everyone. But I don’t know how to follow it. How do you want me to answer your call?

How do you answer His call?






9 thoughts on “The Call to Missions

  1. I don’t have answers for your questions but I thought of something a friend told me recently when I shared how I didn’t know what God wanted me to do in a situation. She said “Ah, but that’s the beautiful thing – you listen to Him! Amazing. He will show you…”

    That was so encouraging to me and reminded me again of the truth that God is so much more interested in what He is doing IN me than through me!

    Blessings as you listen to Him….


  2. Sherilyn M.

    Yes, yes, and yes!! I’m reading the same book, albeit very slowly, but tonight I had a wee chance to read some more. I feel almost desperate with the same questions you ended with, and very ashamed of my own petty hurts in the tiny following so far of that call. I feel the welling up again of my own heart for God to just take us to the darkest, most evil places if that is what it takes to answer that call!


    1. I know what you mean about feeling like your own hurts are so small in comparison to what many Christians suffer. But…God is also pleased with your sacrifice. You are offering out of a heart of love, and He cherishes that!


  3. I’ve never heard of this book, but it sounds like a good read. I’ve wrestled with some of those same questions and wondering, am I really responding to the great commission with willingness to step out of my comfort zone? Too often I want to be salt that stays in the shaker and just helps that shaker to look full. But what good is salt if it does not do what it was intended to do?

    I think we have a great mission field right here in America and none of us have an excuse to not spread the Gospel. Someone recently challenged me to ask God “Who do I need to speak to today?” as I go into town or about my day. And it’s surprising how many divine appointments He has for us if we are willing to step out of our comfort zone and speak to people like He intends us to. It’s not always easy to say to someone, “God told me to pray for you. Is there something in your life that I can pray for right now?” -Or whatever God may be leading you to say. We’re afraid to “be odd”.

    As Anabaptists, we already stand out. We really shouldn’t care about looking foolish when it’s done out of obedience to God. 🙂


    1. Thank you for your encouragement, Simon. I tend to second-guess myself when I sense the Holy Spirit’s nudging. But I am also surprised how often people actually do like to be prayed for!

      Thanks for commenting!


  4. I feel that tearing apart, too, in my soul. But even being in the foreign field does not heal that tearing apart. Instead, so often I look at the faces of those around me as I drive down the road and feel such a loss, because I, too, fail in reaching out to them. I, too, do not know how to reach out past my own insecurities and fear of rejection to touch the life of the random stranger that God asks me to talk to. And then the tearing apart hurts all the more.


    1. I agree, being surrounded with a sea of need sharpens the pain of inadequacy. Maybe we can pray for God’s healing in our hearts, so that we are able to extend that healing to others…


  5. Pingback: To leave or not to leave? A perspective. – arabah rejoice

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