My friend and colleague, Bob Rasmussen, has posted this question on the Missions Fest Seattle website.
May I get a bit personal with you? I served with my family as missionaries in Kenya for ten years. I know the rigors of cross-cultural missions. I know how stupid it feels to learn a language as an adult, how humbling it is to stumble over beginner-level words as a 40 year old senior-pastor.
And I also know that nothing magical happens on the airplane from here to there. The same spiritual wimp steps off the plane in Nairobi that got on in San Francisco.
My friend, Simon Ziegler, who works with international students in Seattle, was asked to go with a group from his church to Togo, West Africa. As they prepared to go, Simon asked if anyone had talked to a person from Togo about what it is like there. “Can we do that?” someone asked. “Yes,” he replied, “just today I talked to a student from Togo.
When the group was being commissioned to leave, they had the student from Togo come to the service. He was a Christian, and he prayed passionately for the group that was going on a mission trip to his homeland. The people of the church were shocked that there was, right in their own area, a person from the country they were traveling to.
Simon commented, “Too often we think we must get on an airplane to cross cultures for Jesus. But North America is becoming increasingly diverse, offering innumerable opportunities to befriend those from foreign countries.
I believe in short-term missions. I even believe it is good use of US missions dollars to spend the money on plane tickets to go for a couple weeks or more to a foreign land. But sometimes I wonder what it must look like from a heavenly perspective when we pile our suitcases onto a 747 all excited about sharing the gospel in Asia or digging a well in Africa, when God has skillfully drawn unsaved people from virtually every nation on earth right here to our shores. Never mind our shores, these dear folks are in our neighborhoods, and they come from countries where they rarely heard of Jesus, where they never met one of His loving followers.
I am grateful for, and respectful of the fact that Missions Fest Seattle has decided to include a Local Cross-Cultural track of seminars at this year’s gathering. Looking over the list of seminars being prepared, I see that God has given us a great opportunity to spotlight this gold-mine of missions right here on our sidewalks. On Saturday after lunch (Oct 13) we’re going to have a get-together to discuss these things, and to learn more about the opportunities and resources for reaching the nations in our nation. It would be a privilege to meet you there
When I tell people that the U.S. is a mission field, some people stare at me like what I’ve said doesn’t make any sense to them. Others immediately express their wholehearted agreement, or say, “It’s about time.”
Here’s the reality: God has moved representatives from many people groups far from their homelands all over the world and has plunked them down here in America. Rather than heading overseas, Christians can enthusiastically seize the opportunity to reach these “transplanted mission fields.”