finding your mission field
Ah, the mission field. I guarantee that if you've grown up in the church in any capacity you have heard about the mission field, whether it pertains to your personal mission field or your church's. When talking about mission fields many people reference Acts 1:8:
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
But how do you find your mission field?
I believe that we all are capable of — and called to — having a mission field in senses both specific and broad. I consider it foolish to limit God's revelation of your mission field to one specific way, so please do not take this post the only way to discover yours. Rather, I want to share my experience with you. What I have found to be true concerning the discovery of one's mission field is the work of a couple different factors at play:
- Your passions.
- The good news of the Gospel for you.
I am a firm believer that the Lord has intentionally instilled unique passions in each and every one of His image-bearers.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
These passions can be anything: photography, nature, cars, teaching, music, etc. The list could go on forever. It's important to pay attention to your passions and interests, as the intentionality with which they were knitted into your being can serve as a map to your mission field. What are your passions? In what ways do you feel that your passions could be used to reach a certain group of people? Spend some time in prayer with the Lord sifting through your passions and asking how they can be used to glorify Him. (I find it of the utmost importance to warn each of you how quickly and subtly a passion can become an idol, as it did with me. Always pursue God more than the blessing, the Gift-Giver more than the gift.) God cares about the things we care about. He has put passions in our hearts for a reason.
Personally, I have always been drawn to nature, animals and the wilderness. One day in the fall of my senior year of high school I was exposed to the idea that the scientific culture is a mission field, too. Ever since then, I have been convinced of my calling to the scientific world. While it was my passions that sent me in the direction I have pursued — the direction I feel very strongly the Lord was calling me to — the idea of my mission field has been honed with the revelation of the Gospel's good news to me.
The Gospel's Good News.
It wasn't until recently — like, three weeks ago — that I finally discovered what the good news of the Gospel is to me. Reflect here for a second — if you can't truthfully say that the Gospel is good news to you, that's okay. Pray and ask the Lord to reveal to you what the good news is for you. And then trust that whatever comes to your mind is the Holy Spirit speaking to you. For me, the good news is that there is no place on this earth — no wilderness — that is more wild than my relationship with the Lord. Now that I know what the good news is for my life, I want to tell everybody, but I especially want to tell people who are like me, people who put their hope in nature rather than in God.
This is where the idea of specific and broad mission fields come into play. My specific mission field is people who are searching in nature for something that only God can provide. I have a heart for this group of people because that's the kind of person I used to be. I very deeply understand where they come from and what they search for. My mentor Brent, on the other hand, has a completely different perception of the Gospel's good news, and that allows him to have a different specific mission field, one with which I am unable to empathize as much. When I asked him how the good news of the Gospel effected his ministry, he replied with this:
To me, the Good News, is that when I was least worth loving Jesus reached past my bitterness and hatred and saved me from myself. I don’t mean that on a grand, theological scale, I mean it personally. Literally, July 7th 2012, Jesus had an encounter with me in my room and stopped me from committing suicide. It’s the first bit of good news I ever heard and the only one I care about. My reasons for loving Jesus are unashamedly selfish; I wouldn’t love him if he hadn’t done that for me, and the Gospel would just be words on a page without it. I wish I was capable of loving him for who he is because he’s worthy of it. But I either wasn’t capable or wasn’t willing to live in such a way before July 7th. And, truthfully, it’s only after many, many more encounters with Him that I’ve found my desire to worship and serve him to be less selfish.
That made my mission field extremely simple. I wanted to reach everyone but, mostly, I wanted to reach the people who were like me.
The ones who grew up hearing about a man they’d never met. The one’s that well-meaning churches and friends and parents had convinced had life in Christ but were, in reality, just like me. Just people walking around, going through the motions, unknowingly waiting for the moment they realized their life was built on nothing. The ones who were like me.
And upon asking a dear friend Chantel the same question, she replied:
For my life, the good news has proven to be that Jesus came to redeem my true self. Not the person I have been taught by society to be. But the person who is most true to the child in me. We live in a world in which everything is predicated upon keeping up with the Joneses or even being the Joneses. The good news for me is that Jesus is the standard and His method of bringing me to Him is coming to me. This has shaped my mission field because, as a black woman in finance, so often black women are competing to be better than the next, simply as a self preservation tactic. I want to bring ministry into my mission field by being the person that is willing to help others realize that they are enough. That the true power of God is in them, and money is nothing to fear. I want to change the paradigm of thought associated with money, power and identity by bringing Jesus into the conversation. The good news is that you don't need "things" and there is nothing to keep up with. Simply be who you are and Jesus will come to you, no dollar signs or titles attached.
The three of us have very different versions of what the Gospel's good news is in our lives, and it is that good news that shapes the mission fields that are very specific to us. Chantel is far better equipped to reach black women in finance than I am, and I am better equipped to reach bush-goers in Africa than she is. This is one of my favorite things about the power of Jesus and His ability to use each of our passions to further His Kingdom here on earth.
Despite our different specific mission fields and the different good news that each of us has to share, each of our messages ultimately communicates the same thing, as my friend Graham pointed out when I asked him the question:
I believe that in this life we all search for two things: love and satisfaction. We search for it in all these different areas of our lives, but nothing other than Jesus will give us the love and satisfaction that we so deeply crave. A relationship with God means that I am fully known and loved by the Creator of everything. Jesus satisfies me and helps me know that I am loved and enough.
This brings me to the broader message that we all have to share: Jesus is the only thing that satisfies. No matter what desire we're looking to satisfy, Jesus is the only thing that will bring the satisfaction for which we search. We can convince ourselves otherwise — and be convinced otherwise by the enemy —, but the reality is that there is no job, no relationship, no accomplishment, etc. that will satisfy us the way that Jesus can and will, if we let Him. Nothing. And it is this broader message that allows us to reach a greater group of people: people who turn to things other than Jesus for love and satisfaction, no matter what that "thing" is to which they turn. This is what allows me to evangelize to a desperate church-goer who has never had a relationship with Jesus or to a black woman competing in the financial world. In the same way it allows Brent and Chantel to evangelize to someone returning from the African bush disappointed by the lack of satisfaction they had set out to find (which, ironically enough, was me about four months ago). While our Gospel experiences will be more helpful to specific people with similar experiences, the message is the same regardless: Jesus satisfies.
Taking these two things into account — our passions and the Gospel's good news to us —, along with dedicated prayer and conversation with the Lord, we are able to find our mission fields. So if you're curious about the mission field the Lord may have in store for you, I'd greatly encourage you to spend some time with Him meditating over these things. If you feel like you already have an idea of what your mission field is, what is it? I'd love to hear how the Lord is using different people's mission fields to further His Kingdom in every area of the world! As always, if you have any questions, please leave them below.
May the dust of the Rabbi cover you,
A Greater Hope
Happy Earth Day!
This year, there’s a popular saying, of sorts, that “Every day should be Earth Day.” While I am grateful for the awareness that this celebratory day brings to important issues such as climate change, pollution, wildlife conservation and the preservation of our planet as a whole, I do agree that the topic is a very demanding one that needs daily focus and attention. Making necessary changes to our lifestyles, businesses and society is the only way that we will begin to start the journey of repairing the damage we have done to our planet.
It’s easy to become discouraged when considering the ways that we’ve affected our planet. Often I envy the people of the past who were surrounded and living in the raw, wild beauty of nature, unaffected by mankind. I am very deeply sorrowed at the fact that I will never in my lifetime see Earth in that state, one in which wild animals that are presently facing extinction roam the earth freely. Never will I, nor anyone, see the vast populations of trees and wildlife that once inhabited the lands of fallen rainforests and crowded cities. We are racing more and more quickly to a polluted ocean decorated by the skeletons of once-flourishing coral reefs. Nothing will be able to restore our earth to its young, natural state, and nothing will be able to reverse the damage that is being done now and that will continue to be forced upon our planet.
It’s easy for outlooks to be depressed by this mindset. I once had no hope, as all I could do was yearn for the things of the far past, for things that will never return.
But my hope has been placed in something else, something greater than myself.
One day the Lord directed me to Isaiah 65. Verses 17-25 stood out to me, shaking my world and completely reshaping my vision of the future:
It is within these verses that a beautiful picture is painted of the New Heavens and New Earth that we get to live in, that the Lord will create for us to enjoy. This New Earth will be so much more beautiful than what we experience now that we won't even want to remember the things of old, the things right now (v 17). That blows my mind.
My soul now longs for the things that the Lord promises to give us, and I turn to this passage in times of desperation and sorrow when I think about our dying planet. I’m incredibly thankful that the Lord has promised this New Earth to us, along with the animals that will inhabit it. My favorite verse in this passage is verse 25 — guys, there will be animals (even snakes!!!) in heaven that we will get to live with and among. I’m SO EXCITED. I consider this my new hope, my greater hope for a future that is natural and beautiful and raw and untouched and wild, perfectly and intentionally designed by God.
Last Friday afternoon I was volunteering with an organization and, as we were working with the students and chatting amongst ourselves, I noticed someone pull out a Bear YoYos fruit snack. A few minutes later, as students and other volunteers began eating them, I heard people saying things like, “I got Chile!” and, “Well I got Rwanda!” In each fruit snack, as they explained, was a “country card” that described one of 80 different countries and territories from all 7 continents on the globe. Chuckling to myself I thought, It would be crazy if I opened one and pulled out a Botswana card. Dismissing the absent-minded thought, I continued handing out food and talking to other volunteers.
I finally decided to try one of these fruit snacks, and was excited to see which country I would get to learn about (I love learning, so things like this are really interesting to me!). I opened a box of strawberry fruit snacks and pulled one out. Opening the package, my mouth dropped wide open as I pulled out the card:
I was dumbfounded — I didn't even know that Botswana was an option as a country card, and the likelihood that I would have pulled a specific card out of all eighty was 1.25%! I just started laughing, smiling and praising God. For me, that was a gracious, unexpected confirmation that the Lord is sending me to Botswana.
But the He didn’t stop there.
The following Monday night, my roommates and I were hanging out in our room, washing our faces and doing homework, when another roommate came flying into the room.
Oh goodness, what’s going on? I thought to myself. She sounded frantic.
“My computer isn’t working!! It’s spazzing out, and it’s opening different tabs randomly and—“
I was about to inform her that I was likely going to be of little help when she thrust the computer in my face, showing me what was on the screen.
“I literally didn’t touch anything,” she assured. “This tab just came open on my computer screen and I knew you were going to Africa, and I thought it was crazy!”
Google Maps had been opened, and pulled up was the Okavango Delta, which is WHERE I’LL BE GOING IN BOTSWANA. At this point, I started freaking out, too. It was INSANE. God did NOT need to do that, and yet He confirmed for me, yet again, that this is actually happening.
I must say that, for a period of time, I was disappointed that He didn’t want me to go to Texas last summer (I wrote a blog post about it: http://www.kerringtonmaner.com/home/see-ya-later-alligators) and that He asked me not to turn in my study abroad application for Spain in the fall. In each of these specific ways I trusted the Lord but was reluctant to surrender the plans I had to Him because what He wanted for me was so much more different than from what I wanted for myself. But in a period of 4 days, He confirmed two more times to me that this trip to Botswana is what He wants me to do and that His will and my will are aligned. This confirmation was not anything that I felt I needed, as I was already in the process of raising money and making preparations for the trip. However, the Lord knew that this confirmation would be helpful for me, and I’m so appreciative that He was willing to do that for me.
Several weeks ago, I received an email that told me that my spot for the trip was going to be sold and that the only thing I could do to keep it was to confirm my booking by putting down a 20% deposit before somebody else did. I was surprised and slightly concerned — I wasn’t sure how much 20% was going to be, and I didn’t have an exact number for how much I had been given so far. Long story short, the Lord had given me just more than enough to make the full deposit and to cover the fees that accompanied the transfer. Hallelujah!
I’m still in a place of patience, trusting and expectation with the Lord -- there isn’t an ounce of doubt that He will provide the full expenses needed. I still have a balance of $5462 left on the trip, excluding the cost of the flight. I’m praying for the money by April 1st (which is tomorrow), but I trust that the Lord will provide it on His timing. If you feel led in any type of way to continue to support me, please do! I continue to need support in finances and prayer, and both are equally important.
If the Lord had not made it so clear to me and to others that I would be going to Botswana this summer, I would never have pursued this opportunity. But literally all I can do is trust the Lord and be obedient, expectant and patient over this plan He has for my life.
A midweek prayer
As I sit and write this at 1:32 in the morning, I can't help but feel let my mind wander to the seemingly unending upcoming demands of my life: exams, studying, assignment due dates, application deadlines, fundraising, and SLEEP (which I'm obviously not getting much of), among other things. If I could just make it to the end of this week then maybe I'll be able to get back on my feet, I tell myself. The problem is that this mindset traps me in a cycle until suddenly the semester is halfway through and I'm left wondering how time has flown so quickly.
Rather than let myself fall victim to this diversion of the enemy, who so relentlessly tries to get us to focus our attention on anything other than the goodness and faithfulness and consistency of God, I've chosen to stand in the storm, trusting the truths of the Lord instead of the lies of the evil one. As I was spending time with the Lord literally just a few minutes ago, I felt compelled to share with you all my prayer of joy to our Father:
Lord God, Abba, I thank You for the assurance of Your goodness.
Thank You for the promise of peace that is rooted in trusting You.
I thank you that in the midst of the relentless storm I am able to step out of the boat and onto the waves.
I trust You when the world says I should worry.
You are my hope.
You are faithful.
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of is own."
A personal mission
My fellow small group leader and trusted friend Kyra once shared from a devotional the definitions of vision and mission as they pertain to a relationship with and a calling from the Lord: vision is your purpose here on earth and mission pertains to the way(s) you walk out your vision. Personally, as I see it now, the vision for this life of mine is to spread the gospel of Jesus with as much intentionality as I can, especially throughout the scientific culture, and to encourage people to lovingly preserve the Creation, and all of its inhabitants, that God has so generously blessed us with. As this perception of my vision has long been shaped and molded by God, and will continue through that process, different missions of mine have come and gone. From openly talking about Jesus and my faith to fellow biology students and professors to sharing my testimony with a Muslim friend to approaching a stranger in a restaurant to remind him that the Lord loves him, my mission has always been deeply rooted in the desire to make the King known throughout my world. The Lord has recently tasked me with a new mission, one that is sure to greatly expand the horizons of my world as I know it.
In September, I came across a unique opportunity to go to Botswana, Africa. I was scrolling through Instagram when an ad appeared for Okavango Guiding School. That’s cool, I thought as I clicked on the picture. What was presented to me was the opportunity to attend the Okavango Guiding School for a month, learning how to nature guide and trail guide in the African bush. Checking the prices, I excitedly realized that this trip may be one that I could realistically afford and manage. I pitched the potential idea to my mom and, hesitantly, she agreed that it would be an amazing experience for me. I quickly stopped myself from becoming too excited and emotionally committed, however, remembering Gator Country and that, despite my excitement and desire to go, the Lord had asked me to stay home, ultimately because He was aware of the ways that He both was protecting me and had something better in store for me (If you want to read more, here’s the link to my blog post about it: http://www.kerringtonmaner.com/home/see-ya-later-alligators). After praying and speaking to a friend, I decided that I would ask the Lord for confirmation through listening prayer.
Later the next day I returned to school in time for Kyra and me to lead our small group, which consists of my roommates and several friends. At the time, I was beginning to disciple one of my roommates, Katie, who had recently recommitted her life to the Lord. Towards the end of our small group we were all practicing listening prayer and just trying to hear from the Lord about different areas of our lives. I felt prompted by Him to ask Katie to listen for me. As I hadn’t mentioned anything to any of them about Africa yet (this is important to keep in mind), I thought it would be a cool way to allow the Lord to move if He so decided.
I asked Katie, “Would you mind asking the Lord if He wants me to take the opportunity that has been put in front of me?”
“Sure,” she excitedly replied. The Lord had already been speaking to us in several ways, and I hoped that He would do so again. She closed her eyes for a few moments, and I waited in anticipation of what would be said.
Opening her eyes once more, Katie turned to me and shared what the Lord had showed her while she prayed:
“I saw you sitting in a field, surrounded by a bunch of animals. They were all circled around you and you were just, like, in the middle petting a tiger. Somehow — I don’t know how — I just knew you were in Africa, and it felt like you were at home. I felt very much like you were at peace and at home there in Africa, surrounded by all of those animals. And then I saw an image flash before my eyes. From the glimpse I got, I could see that it was an airplane and a sunset. That’s what I saw! Does it mean anything to you?”
I smiled, nearly disbelieving that the Lord had just revealed this to me through Katie. He hadn’t said just a simple yes or no; instead, He chose to confirm for both Katie and me that we were talking about the same thing and that, yes, He was commissioning me to go to Botswana.
“I intentionally didn’t tell you this,” I started, “but that was confirmation for me. The opportunity I told you to ask about was me going to Africa. The Lord just confirmed to me, through you, that I’m going to Botswana, Africa this summer.”
I then explained the previous events that had led up to that event, and both of us were amazed by how the Lord had moved. We started laughing and rejoicing that the Lord had chosen to reveal Himself to us in that way. I was hesitant to believe that this was confirmation, solely because it meant that I was really going. However, it’s safe to say now that I trust the confirmation that the Lord gave me.
While I’m incredibly excited for the experiences that lie ahead in Africa, I can’t help but feeling that the Lord is calling me there for more than just learning how to nature guide. I don’t believe in coincidences, and the Lord has brought up a couple reminders that have led me to believe that He’s sending me there to do His work. Throughout my whole life, Africa has always held a very special place in my heart, even moreso than Australia, which may be hard for some to believe. I’ve always felt the need to go, to be apart of the land, to interact with the animals and the cultures, to just be there. And for some reason the thought of Africa has always stirred in me feelings of desire and of being called home. I feel that these feelings have been innately instilled in me by the Lord with great intention. I believe the Lord is allowing me to go on this trip so that I may begin to understand His reasoning for calling me to this amazing continent and get my first taste of what He’s got in store for my life.
Secondly, He has instilled in my heart a desire to be a witness to those in the scientific world. This calling was defined and confirmed with me as I watched a TedTalk for one of my online classes at Southeastern University,
“Our new mission field is the scientific culture,” the speaker fervently explained.
Having written it down years ago, I feel that serving in this mission field is a way that I get to live-out the Lord’s calling for my life. Being drawn to science, I’ve always welcomed the difficulty that accompanies it for a Christ-follower. I deeply feel that the Lord is sending me on this trip to Africa to be a witness of Jesus, not to the local tribes or cultures, but instead to those who may put their trust in science rather than in God. The Lord is tasking me with this upcoming mission, and all I need do is trust Him and be faithful over what He asks of me.
I trust the Lord’s provision for and over this trip, including the financial aspect. If after reading my story you feel at all compelled or prompted to support me in any way, I will welcome it greatly, whether it be through prayer or through finances, one of which is more important than the other (hint: it’s prayer!!). You can help by spreading my story, by praying or even by giving financially if you feel led to. I am also selling original drawings for donation, the ideas of which were inspired by the Lord (check the Fundraising page on my website for more information). I thank you greatly in advance for your support, whether it be through prayer or through finances.
1 Thess. 2:2
"...but with the help of our God we dared to tell His gospel in the face of strong opposition."