Zero is a number too
The past four years, my wife has been doing on-the-job training for an Environmental Health qualification. She worked at hospitals teaching out-patients on hygiene, proper use of mosquito nets, educating people on how to avoid disease outbreaks, taking care of HIV/AIDS patients and many other health related tasks that are aimed at saving lives.
After a hard day’s work, we talk about each other’s day and on many occasions, I barely have a story to share. In those moments, my wife is a “rock star” and I am very proud of her achievements. Yet the more we go through the routine, the more I wish I could be sharing similar impactful stories of “true accomplishment” and “heroism."
I’m a missionary. That means I was commissioned to go and make disciples. You may picture me as an odd, hairy, John-the-baptist-look-alike wearing ragged clothes and eating strange foods that make your stomach turn. On the contrary, I have an office space and my tools of trade are a pen, camera, voice recorder, notebook and sometimes just my senses. I spend my time doing intangible things such as writing stories, creating brochures, newsletters and tidbits to post on our website and social media pages.
On an active day, I record videos, take pictures and compose storylines and determine what audiences to share with. In my mind, these things pale when compared to implementing programmes among expecting mothers or terminally-ill patients praying for a new lease of life. So, at home, sometimes I try to avoid the routine of “What did you do at work today?” – a question to which my response seem to invite travesty and ridicule when juxtaposed by the response I know my wife will give.
However, the interesting thing is that, my wife genuinely wants to hear my “boring” stories because she sees the hidden value in what I do. Yes, there are days when I visit remote tribes and marginalised people groups and notice ‘issues that nobody seems able to notice.' She marvels at my ability to carve out stories - ‘seemingly out of nothing’ - and at such times, I am more willing to talk and even feel “more missionary” myself.
But are some workers better than others? Are frontline workers better than office workers? What about my missionary colleagues who stay in the office all day crunching numbers in the accounts department or sorting personnel files and smiling at every potential missionary? Are they less missionary than the one who gave a talk and guides a multitude to make decisions for Christ?
In the Bible, the New Testament often uses the analogy of a human body to illustrate the church. The illustration is that the body is composed of many members with many gifts and abilities and because of that we can achieve more. But you don’t hear the hands taking credit over the head or the head over the legs. Yet, in my discussions with my wife, I seem to forget this important lesson.
What a momentous flop a preacher would be, if they were to stop preaching and instead attempt to be a computer programmer? My wife’s job often evokes emotion; sympathy, compassion and grief and the best person for this job is one who is loving, caring and patient. I wouldn’t last a day. Our talents, gifts and abilities originate somewhere and are prepositioned in us by God who ordains us to serve to each other in our roles. We serve to the delight of the crowd of One and He always finds the work of our hands pleasing even when we feel like we are but a zero on a number line.