Serving cross-culturally often begins with a call from God into this ministry. Sounds straight-forward, right? Well, not really. As you can see from the stories in this edition of Go, people experience “call” in many different ways and some of our established ideas about “call” are often challenged during the journey.
Firstly, we often think that call needs to be something that is specific and direct. However, aspects of the call can be just as valid when they are general and indirect. Scripture is full of statements which call us all to sacrificially serve Christ throughout our world. This general call is so powerful that we could argue that no further specific calling is necessary, or that not to serve in this way demands a clear call. Furthermore, our knowledge of the immense needs in a hurting world surely constitute such a compelling indirect call that a direct call from above should hardly be necessary. However, what emerges from these stories is that obedience to explore what the general call to be missional means for us personally often leads to specific and direct aspects of this call on our lives.
Secondly, how the call to cross-cultural service develops is often as much about common sense as about extraordinary events. We already have gifts and abilities that we believe God has called us to thus far. How can we use them in another culture? How can we develop and grow spiritually and professionally as we explore God’s purposes for us? But beyond our common sense we need to remember that God’s call is to be a particular kind of person over and above what job or location he calls us to. This is where we should start to look for His call; the practical will unfold as we remain faithful and obedient.
Thirdly, we need to be open to change during the journey. Sometimes, we get the message wrong and God needs to change us. As Bernie found (GO Magazine ONE 2016, Interserve Australia), “It was a very fluid yet intentional process”. We may be clinging on to false dreams. We can also mistake circumstances or closed doors as direction from God when it may be a test of our resolve or an attack of the evil one. Discerning the differences is not always easy, but God remains faithful and will continue to patiently guide, shepherd and grow us.
Finally, our personal call is not just between us and God. We are part of the body of Christ – a community on which there is also a call. Our church, family, friends and, yes, even our mission agency are also collectively called to discern God’s will for the body of Christ in this world. This can be a challenge to Western individuality and independence, but this was firmly part of the early church’s missional strategy and is still a powerful aspect of faith in action among other cultures. Let the Christian community speak into your life. Be prepared to let go, remembering that God’s voice is often heard through His people.
We need to be sure of God’s leading as we seek to serve cross-culturally. It’s a big undertaking with a lot at stake. And it will be this call that sustains us when the going gets tough. However, if we are open, our call will keep developing as God continues His work in us, not just as His servants but as His children.
Shared by our new Church and Community Engagement Director. He and his wife recently returned from serving in the Middle East.