When I was a little girl, I heard about missionaries through GAs (Girls in Action) on Wednesday nights at church. Twice a year, we would raise money for missions through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. (Sadly, I don't have a clue who Annie Armstrong or Lottie Moon were...) Other than that, I don't remember having any contact with missionaries.
It wasn't until Billy and I started attending Open Door Bible Church that I started getting an education on missionaries. Our church supported missionary families directly instead of through an organization that was impersonal to me. Those missionaries would communicate directly with the church. Each month, a different missionary family was featured through updates, prayer requests, photos, etc. The missions bulletin board at church highlighted a map of the world with the missionaries' cities marked with pins, strings leading to family photos and mini biographies. People from our church were even going out as missionaries to other places. Some, short term; others, long.
I began to get a real feel for what missionaries were like. They were real people with real struggles just like me and other people I knew. The main difference was they were making a career out of sharing the love of Jesus Christ with unfamiliar people. I began to take more of an interest in missions.
After we moved to the Dallas area, the bigger realm of missions opened my eyes more than I thought possible. Through Dallas Theological Seminary, I came to know several families who were on track to serve as missionaries in various places. Some of them became good friends who are now actively serving in the mission field in Hungary, Germany, and many other places. Some of our good friends are leaving this week to serve in medical missions in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Another family we grew close to during our time together at DTS is hoping to leave for India in February. Another friend of mine is raising support with her husband with hopes of serving in Africa soon.
The boys and I attended the World Evangelization Conference (aka. WEC Week) on campus a few years. The number of missions agencies that set up booths in order to match up with future missionaries was astounding! I attended several sessions on different aspects of missions: reaching Europeans, interacting with Muslims, short-term missions around the world, and missions work at home.
Each year our church also hosts a 10-day-long missions conference. The last three years, our home team (church small group) has hosted a dinner for a missionary family, where we learn what they are doing, what they like/don't like about where they are, the difficulties they face, what their family life is like, etc. It's a great experience to learn first-hand what these people are doing.
All this saturation of information and experience over the years has been taking root and trying to grow into something. I just wasn't sure what until now.
(to be continued...)