Author’s Note: Here on the blog for the past few months, we’ve been featuring stories that exemplify each of TEAM’s Defining Values. As we came to the value of “Passionate Service,” I knew I wanted to share a story about a TEAM missionary with a passion for cross-cultural service. Here’s what God showed me in the meantime.
A New Adventure
I held my breath and kicked hard for the surface. Snorkeling in the teal blue waters off the coast of the Philippines was a new adventure for me. For the first few minutes, I had stayed close to the surface, concentrating on the fact that I could breathe fresh air through the snorkel while still enjoying the beautiful coral and tropical fish below me.
But a beautiful, abandoned spider conch shell on the sea floor had caught my eye and I was determined to swim down and retrieve it. Experienced snorkelers and divers may chuckle, but even though this treasure was only about 15 feet down, I was completely intimidated by the dive. My Let’s-Not-Drown fear was saying, “DON’T! It’s TOO FAR! You’ll run out of breath!” But that other fear, some call it FOMO, was louder, yelling, “You’ll be so mad at yourself if you don’t try.”
So I took a few ragged, angst-filled breaths and then went for it, forcing the air from my lungs as I plunged so that I could sink to the bottom. Getting down did not prove to be a problem. In a few swift strokes, I had the shell in hand and now aimed myself back toward the fractured sunlight gleaming from above me. It looked SO FAR AWAY. The panic started to set in, admonishing me. “Yep. You’re in too deep. You should have stayed at the surface where it’s safe.”
Fortunately, my legs were stronger and my lungs more sufficient than I gave them credit for, and with a generous amount of gratitude (and also gasping), I emerged victorious in my quest!
It wasn’t until later as I reflected on this adventure that I began to realize that in a way, my shell-retrieval escapade was a metaphor for the experience that brought me to the Philippines in the first place.
Safe Near the Surface
As the Communications Manager at TEAM, my job is to share stories of what God is doing in His global Church. For the most part, I do this by sitting across a Zoom screen from my brothers and sisters in the field, listening as they recount the highs and lows of their ministry. I learn the names of those whose lives are being impacted by the Gospel. I get a window into the missions world as workers share, through laughter or through tears, the challenges they face and the creative ways they adapt to life in a culture very different from the culture of their upbringing.
Basically, I’m snorkeling. I can see what’s going on, and it’s beautiful. It’s new and it’s interesting, but it doesn’t demand much of me. I praise God with our workers as they tell me how the Lord miraculously provided an antibiotic for a sick child in a distant village, but then I can leave that call and pick up my own child’s prescription (that I requested via Teledoc) from a WalMart located 30 seconds from my house.
I’m staying near the surface…snorkeling.
Then a few weeks ago, I went to the Philippines. I was invited to attend a gathering of national Filipino believers who are serving as missionaries in the greater Indo-Malay region, bringing the Gospel to unreached and previously unengaged people groups in Muslim communities. As I sat in on their time together, hearing their stories and watching them learn and grow together, I was struck with the depth of their commitment and the passion with which they serve.
The workers’ joy was absolutely contagious despite the dangers they face. Many have endured unspeakable persecution. All have made tremendous personal sacrifices. Their lives are so different from mine, and much of that is by choice. They are smart, well-spoken, and educated. They have other opportunities in vocation and location, but they choose the harvest in hard places. They choose to go and fulfill the Great Commission with the unfettered faith that one day, we will see the realization of Revelation 7:9, when people from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” will stand “before the throne and before the Lamb.”
They aren’t snorkeling. They’re scuba diving. They’re in deep, and unlike me, they aren’t kicking like mad for the surface. And guess what else? They’re not the only ones.
The Bigger Picture
As I thought about this self-sacrificial, passionate service for Jesus, I realized the same is true of all cross-cultural workers. I thought about my friends Michael and Susan in Indonesia. Matt and Sara in the Czech Republic. Cindy in Nepal. Scott and Sue in Chad. David in Guatemala. Samantha wherever she can find Ukrainian refugees who need her. And countless others (some in places that can’t even be named here).
Quite simply, every global worker I’ve been blessed to talk with and work with is an example of passionate service. They’ve taken a deep dive. They could have chosen any number of paths, but they chose to hear and heed the Lord’s call on their lives. They’re scuba diving.
And that makes me want to dive deeper, too. In what areas of my spiritual walk and ministry is God calling me to take the plunge? What about you?