“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out…
and he went out not knowing where he was going…
for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations,
whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10)
Missionaries are those who, in practice, live out their lives in the here and now as sojourners in the truest sense of the word. Like Abraham, they are “called to go out” of their home environment. Stop and think about it for a moment. To accomplish their uprooted calling, missionaries become:
- Geographic sojourners: willing to leave their homeland and all that is familiar to live anywhere God so leads.
- Cultural sojourners: willing to live in a new and strange culture, among people with a different worldview, and learn to speak another language, for the sake of making the gospel known.
- Monetary sojourners: willing to deny themselves the accumulation of wealth and even live impoverished for the sake of identifying with the people among whom they minister. Trophy homes, expensive cars, children’s elite education and exotic vacations are willingly forfeited.
- Relational sojourners: willing to leave loved ones behind – parents, siblings, friends, and at times even children – in order to befriend and relate to lost “others” who are strangers. It might even mean placing young children in a distant boarding school, as my wife and I (and some of you) did.
To be a mission sojourner means that everything that we feel we have a right to is held loosely. But that’s OK, because mission sojourners have come to realize that that which is of the present is temporal, whereas everything waiting in the next life is eternal. A missionary willingly sojourns because of this eternal perspective.
Like Abraham, the missionary is looking forward to the fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11) of that eternal city whose designer and builder is God (Heb. 11:10). Self-denial in this life will make for satisfaction in the next. Foregoing in the present will make for fulfillment in the future. Heaven will be an eternal experience of continual make up for all that was forfeited while serving as sojourners in the here and now.
Perhaps a good reminder for all mission sojourners comes from pastor Steve Berger in his book Between Heaven and Earth. Having lost his teenage son suddenly in a tragic accident, Berger writes:
“God wants us to see our lives through the lens of being strangers, sojourners,
pilgrims, and foreigners on this earth. Simultaneously, He wants us to know
that we are not strangers, pilgrims, and foreigners in the household of God.
There, we are fellow citizens. That is where we belong.” Kindle location 7461