I was in the middle of my first year of seminary, sitting next to my wife Sonja during a J-term presentation by Dan Venberg about LBIM’s mission work, when I first really heard about the work our Church has been called to and the need for missionaries. Afterward, as we crossed the parking lot to where we lived, Sonja asked me what I thought about what Dan had said. She was expecting a flat out “No.” I love winter, I don’t like heat, and I’d often told her I would take a call from any church that wasn’t in Florida because that was too hot. But as we were walking, something was nagging at me, and I couldn’t say “No”… so we decided to think and pray about it.
As we processed this, I was also starting the second term of History of the Church, taught by Dr. Gaylan Mathiesen. In this class, I realized how inseparable the history of the Church is from the Mission of God. Since its very inception God has used the Church to constantly bring the Good News to people around the world. I would come home after class excited to share with Sonja all sorts of stories of past witnesses spreading the Word. Some of them she wasn’t so excited about, like the Irish monks who set themselves adrift in the ocean to allow God to take them where he wanted them to preach. But God was working in me through all these stories, and I began to see his work through the Church in ways outside what I thought I had been called to.
I also began to realize that I had a narrow concept of who a missionary is: the overly outgoing evangelistic type. The truth is that God works through all who follow Jesus Christ. My own bravado or intellectual argument does not bring people to Christ. It is rather the proclamation of the gospel that changes people—not by my works, but by his Word. This was a freeing concept, as grace always is, to know that the pressure to make converts isn’t put on me. All I have to do is let the light shine that has been given to me and God will do the rest.
God loves the whole world, both the neighbors next door who don’t know Jesus and the ones across the ocean. We as the Church have the wonderful mission to tell everyone of God’s love. Dr. Mathiesen once said to our class that there is only one thing that we can do on earth, as believers, that we won’t be able to do when we are in heaven, and that is to tell people who don’t have hope in Jesus about the hope we have in him. That struck me. There is work to be done before Christ returns, and we all get to engage in it.
Rev. David and his wife Sonja serve the Church of the Lutheran Brethren as missionaries in Africa.