I spoke with a "Ana" yesterday after our leadership training sessions here in Novosibirsk, about her desire to one day go to India and, as she said, "be a mother to those who have no mother" in an orphanage. She has trained as a kindergarten teacher, and receives a good salary, but she is praying for her mom to change her attitude and allow her to quit her job and take a much lower-paying job at an orphanage near her home in Siberia, while she continues to pray about and prepare for her growing sense of call to India. We spoke (through Julia, the IFES staff here and our partner as interpreter) and prayed together for her mother's change of heart and God's granting of wisdom to them both.
We are being hosted here by Alex and Julia, who have recently returned for a second visit to Vietnam as they have been praying about their sense that God is calling them to minister in Vietnam. They ended up going to Vietnam recently after having received gifts of time and funding, with a very affordable 10-day, all expenses trip for $1000 falling in their laps. When the arrived in Vietnam, they realized that the hotel they were staying at was owned by a Christian woman with a heart for ministry and that, during their stay, it was the site for a S. Korean group hosting an English-language camp for Vietnamese students who didn't know Jesus. So they connected with the group for the week, sang (in English!) worship songs with the Koreans and the Vietnamese, and met several pastors and others who could help them think through what a missionary calling to Vietnam could look like. We were inspired listening to Alex and Julia telling their story of the miraculous way God provided for and arranged their trip.
Last week in Central Asia we met several people who were themselves making plans to move forward with a calling to cross-cultural ministry. One student worker, "M", leaves next week with two other men for a cross-border trip that will take him into another "Stan" where the US currently has troops engaged in conflict. His three-week trip is intended to bring medical supplies, aid and the gospel to a small pocket of rural people with whom he can share the gospel because he speaks the language. His journey there will involve a 3-day's hike to the village, which is located somewhere above 14,000 feet in elevation.
Since the time I went to my first Urbana missions conference as a student in 1979, I have heard about the challenge to "Finish The Task". This has been a reference to the task of bringing the gospel to all nations, and perceived as an effort to complete the challenge of the great commission of Matthew 28. (This has often been explicitly tied to the goal of preparing the world for Jesus' return.) The internet informs us that 450 people groups still have no church, witness or Bible in their language.
But it has always seemed that the task Jesus is referring to is about turning people into missionaries. When is a group reached? When it has been preached to? When there is an evangelizing church? Is it really Jesus' vision that the Western Church will "finish the task", while large parts of the globe only have a witnessing church that is not engaged in the task? Or is "the task" that of becoming a missionary-sending church?
Of course I love hearing about American friends who have decided to go to some part of the world in the missionary outreach of the Kingdom, but I cannot tell you how inspiring and encouraging it is to hear about people in this part of the world gaining vision for God's global mission and pursuing his purposes for the world.