The first letter

Dear Naomi,

I have been itching to write to you for so long and now, at last, have put pen to paper. When I first read your book I found someone with whom I shared so many struggles … someone who would understand. You were so brave to bare your soul like that and I found the lessons you shared about God’s sovereignty and provision so encouraging. I so wanted to talk to you. And yet I was afraid to write.

I was afraid to write because you are a missionary. Missionaries are so spiritual, they walk so closely with God, they are so amazing. Not me. But this is ridiculous — I am a missionary. But I don’t feel like one and I definitely don’t refer to myself as one.

Actually I noticed that you didn’t use the word “missionary” often either, preferring instead “cross-cultural worker”. Why don’t we like the term missionary? Are we ashamed? There’s a lot of confusion about missionaries. Either we idolise them as spiritual super-heroes and think we couldn’t be one or we are ashamed of them because they are so politically incorrect and we don’t want to be one.

One of the best things about your book is that it gently corrects those mistakes. It’s not a hagiography about someone far-removed in time and place. It’s about someone so — please don’t be offended — so ordinary! We read about you and we know you. We know about suburbs and school dances and sports-mad-young-men. We know about anxiety, confusion, longing and grief. And it dawns upon us that missionaries really are ordinary Christians who, compelled by the love of Christ and for the love of Christ, are sent to go and serve him somewhere else, living and speaking the gospel in a different culture.

In your little spiel to the mission agencies, you basically said, “here we are, this is what we can do, can you use us?” I think if we all stood humbly before God like this he would work powerfully through each of us in building his kingdom, overseas or at home — because being a missionary isn’t the only or even the ultimate way to serve God, is it?

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
With love from your sister in Christ in Vanuatu,
Rachael.