I suppose my missionary journey began years ago. Perhaps, a case could be made it was when I was saved at twelve years old while attending revival services at Wayside Baptist church in Miami, Florida. I remember the pastor was Latin and wore a pink sport coat. I went to the front and shortly after was baptized. According to the great commission, it began there.
By age nineteen, I was really discouraged by what I was witnessing in the church at large, but I hadn’t given up on God. Four years in the US Navy took me out of my “normal” world and provided a place to explore and experiment. The problem was that through my self-directed exploring and experimenting I slipped into a mystic, New Age way of thinking and dabbled in eastern religions looking for a better way to God.
Debbie became pregnant with out first child and we took a long trip around the United States because we were sure we’d never leave home again with children. While on that trip, visiting my aunt and uncle in Montana, we witnessed an authentic Christian community. The Mennonites in eastern Montana completely boggled our minds. Their humble, giving, loving, selfless Christian spirit had a life-changing impact on our pilgrimmage. Perhaps, my missionary journey began when I rededicated my life to Christ in 1973 after that trip out west. After a half decade away from the church, I had returned to the real church, the body of Christ.
Spiritually, I never looked back after that moment. My dedication to the Lord has never wavered, even though at times I insisted on doing it my way. My focus was on God and my family and our life wherever we lived. I didn’t picture myself as a missionary. I didn’t give much thought to the idea that we believers are “sojourners”,”aliens” passing through this world. After all, weren’t missionaries those folks that go live in grass huts in Africa? I supported them and prayed for them, but never saw myself as a missionary.
Looking back, my missionary journey probably began in ernest with a brush with death in 1991. I in no way believe that God put a tumor in my chest to “get my attention.” However, He did use that experience to help me mature in my attitude, my faith and my availability to follow His leading. I had been a compliant believer and church member, behaving like a good “religious person.” For the first time, I pushed all social and economic aspirations and expectations aside. I was finally ready to follow on God’s terms not on my terms.