I was a proper cross-cultural missionary from Ireland. Obviously, I moved continents (Ireland to Sri Lanka) and experienced the obligatory strange weather (hot), strange food (very hot), strange language (very strange) and strange clothes (men often wore what looked to me like skirts and women’s trousers). I quickly discovered that what I thought I knew, I actually didn’t and so gained far more than I ever contributed. It was all good fun, a great learning experience, and a wonderful location for my wife and me to have for some of the formative years of our two daughters. An ongoing civil war, dengue fever and etc. all meant it wasn’t entirely an easy time, but it was great.
Then, I stopped being a missionary. I went back to Ireland and worked as a chaplain in a Dublin university. The new job was all well and good, but not quite the same as our days in mission work. When an opportunity came to be cross-cultural mission partners once more, we jumped at it and moved to England.
I’m not sure that many recognized that I’m a missionary again. That might be in part due to my relative lack of impact in the world around me (although we are called to be faithful and not guaranteed to be successful). But, it’s England. We send missionaries, don’t we? Well, we used to, but we know we aren’t a Christian country in any believing sense anymore.
It’s all about change. I want to change the world around me. As a Methodist, I want to affect positive change the Methodist Church. When I’m in my home country, I fall into a bit of a comfort zone. In Ireland, I’m where most things are familiar and I’m less intentional about what I do. Part of that is fine for a Christian. After all, we do live in the world.
Enculturation is bound to affect us. But, living in a comfort zone doesn’t quite feel like the gospel, at least to me at this stage. I see myself in a long and ongoing tradition of Irish who left home and family to make a new life somewhere else. We are missionaries by nature. We go wherever God leads and wherever opportunity exists. We want to change the world around us although we aren’t actually that great at doing so. Our best days were about 1500 years ago, and it has been mostly downhill ever since. But, God isn’t finished with me yet, so there is hope and possibility.
I might not change the world, but I’m being changed. I wish people would see Christ more in me than I demonstrate most of the time. But, I’m still trying. England hasn’t really noticed when my latest missionary adventure started, and it probably won’t notice when I head off somewhere else (greener?). But, God is changing me.
As we want to be changed, we let God take over. As we want to change our Church, we let God take over. I’m a missionary in England, a missionary within Methodism, and a missionary partnering with countless others as missionaries in the world. Come Lord Jesus.