Before I became a missionary in Africa, I was a missionary in the United States.
At least, that’s what they told me.
I worked in the online department of a Christian university, making classes available to thousands of students, supplying Christians and non-Christians alike around the world with Biblical teaching and resources.
When I was hired, my bosses told me: “You’re serving Jesus at this job—you’re fulfilling the Great Commission.” I agreed, and I tried my best to work with just such a mentality.
The problem was, I sat at a desk all day, behind a computer. I rarely interacted with people outside of emailing. Now, I’m a far cry from what you’d call a “people-person,” but I sure didn’t feel like a missionary.
Sometimes I took sandwiches to the local homeless shelter. Sometimes I led discussion in my Sunday School group. But I saw my life going by behind a desk, and I knew I needed to change.
When I was accepted in 2015 to come to Africa as a journalist for OM, it seemed like the gates of heaven opened up. For the first time in my life, my dreams of world travel and writing would intersect with what I imagined to be a life sold-out for Christ. I’ll admit it: I fell for the old “missionaries-are-super-Christians” deception.
As I boarded the plane in Washington, D.C., my heart sang a tune: “Goodbye, America, hello, real living!” I landed in Johannesburg, South Africa, with an open road of serving God ahead of me, nothing but sweeping revival on my horizon.
For my first three months as a missionary, I sat at a desk all day, behind a computer.
The romantic idealist in me nearly died in South Africa. Don’t get me wrong, I love it there. I love being in Africa—I’m embracing God’s will for my life with open arms.
But I can’t deny I was disappointed when they gave me the spiel: “You may not be out on the field in Africa, but you’re serving Jesus just as much in this office.” I agreed—but I’d heard that before.
Office-life has no appeal to me; I want to smuggle Bibles into hostile countries, call down fire from heaven, I don’t know, maybe at the very least talk to one or two people about Jesus. (As if I couldn’t have walked two steps out of the office and bumped into someone who needs a Saviour.)
Now, almost a year later, my journey with OM has taken me through eight countries, and I’ve had the opportunity to work directly with boots-on-the-ground field missionaries.
I’m currently living in Kumasi, Ghana, where the amenities don’t compare with my South African accommodations. And you know what I’ve realized? God’s grace meets us where we are and transforms us to give our lives to him.
God has given some people a natural proclivity for office work, and I celebrate that. I’ll be honest, traveling around Africa, spending two months sleeping in a tent, washing my clothes by hand, as exciting as it’s been, has made me appreciate the time I’ve been able to go back to South Africa and work in the office. Behind-the-scenes administrative work is the propeller to the field missionary ship.
God’s given other people a desire to go out and experience the world. That’s me. Here in Ghana, the OM field leader, a man named Chris, is quiet, not an extravagant man, but he’s driven by a vision for the lost, and God is using him to flip on my missions generator again. One of the first things he said to me when I arrived in Ghana:
“If we Christians close out arms to others, that’s why people are poor. If Christians would give what they have, we could end poverty by ourselves. But we are too comfortable.”
Whether God calls me to be behind a desk in South Africa or sleeping under a mosquito net in Ghana, I want to have that kind of mentality: giving myself first to God and then to others. It doesn’t come naturally to me any more in a small African village than in the online department of a Christian university; I didn’t transform into a super-Christian when I headed out into the bush. But I do know that wherever I am in life, I don’t want to be comfortable.