For over twenty years I’ve worked with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in a variety of programs and projects around the world. I’ve done many types of work and built a very interesting resume. I’ve worked as a kitchen helper, camp counselor, book keeper, English teacher, New Testament Greek teacher, seminar speaker, fund raiser, and outreach team leader. I’ve worked with great teams, in foreign lands, in and out of my comfort zone, and learned incredible lessons. The life of a missionary may sound glamorous in newsletters, but there’s no way to avoid the truth: it’s still work. Hard work.
One quirk in the work life of a missionary is how I get paid. Unlike many in the workforce my salary doesn’t come directly from those I serve. Instead, through donated funds, I am able to give time and attention to people and projects which don’t generate income. I can give my time to prayer for unreached peoples, discipleship of new believers, and studies to equip me as a teacher and writer.
Another quirk about missionary work is not seeing a direct connection between what I do and how much I get paid. If I work overtime no one knows. I don’t get an annual pay increase. My years of experience and degrees don’t bump me up the pay scale. Without these endorsements, I’ve had to search elsewhere for validation of what I do.
A third quirk in the missionary’s work life is the challenge of evaluating my efforts and activities. How effective is my ministry to adult children of divorce? Or mentoring of young leaders? Or evangelism in difficult places? My life involves a whole lot of planting seeds I don’t see grow, watering seeds I didn’t plant, and harvesting fruit I didn’t tend.
At times this is very frustrating.
Like all of us, I want my work to make a difference. I want to contribute something of value and meaning to the world. I want God to be pleased with what I do and how I do it.
We all have the chance to offer our work to God as a gift; an offering of faith. So, let’s continue to encourage one another in what we do and how we do it. Our work, whatever it is, including the quirks, successes, failures, and frustrations, can please God when it comes from a heart of love.
A Reflection on Colossians 3:22-23