Four missionaries share their experiences
What is your purpose in life? Is your work meaningful? Do you live out your passion daily? Could mission be your calling?
These questions ran through my mind often as I searched for my life's purpose. Whether you are a young adult or youthful, just starting your career or looking forward to a second career, life purpose seems to be on everyone's mind – as it should be. We spend so much time working over the course of a lifetime that our work should satisfy the soul.
Before becoming a young adult missionary for The United Methodist Church, I had to discern God's call on my life. If you asked me five years ago if I wanted to be a missionary, my answer would have been a confident "no." I have learned never to underestimate what God may have planned in our lives.
Full-time mission service is the path that offers purpose, meaning and passion in my life. Don't just take my word for it. The stories of General Board of Global Ministries' missionaries Rachel and Dan Gabler, Soraya Montano and me will give you a look on acting on the call to mission service.
Rachel and Dan Gabler
"I can't imagine not being a missionary," says Rachel Gabler. "I don't know what else I would do if I couldn't do this." Rachel and Dan were born into missionary families in Bolivia. They went to the same boarding schools, knew each other from a young age and fell in love.
Married in 1973, their honeymoon saw them returning to Bolivia to do mission work. They have been in full-time mission service for most of the time since. "It just seemed logical, the most natural thing for us to do," the Gablers say.
Rachel and Dan are standard-support missionaries, commissioned and sent out into the world by Global Ministries. These missionaries can be placed anywhere in the world. The only prerequisite to service is an open mind and heart. There is no maximum or minimum length of service.
Standard-support missionaries witness and serve in dramatically different locales and cultures as they engage in a range of professions and activities. Their assignments align their skills and interests with the need in a particular community.
The Gablers live in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo. Dan serves with the church's aviation ministry, and Rachel works in Christian education. Dan says his work in aviation was the bridge that took them to Africa in 1989, while Rachel's service as a Christian educator keeps them there. She has written more than 80 plays to engage Christian audiences in the DRC. "The goal is not to give those answers," she explains, "but to raise questions, and get conversations started around the issues specific to African culture."
"Our whole lives prepared us for mission," Rachel says. "You won't go through anything for nothing. God doesn't waste anything. He uses things you never would've thought he would use."
Soraya Montano's commitment to full-time mission service has brought her far from her home town of Cali, Colombia – and made her a missionary who came to the United States to serve.
A church and community worker in Mason, Ohio, for the past nine years, Montano recalls completing the application for a mission assignment – and being too scared to submit it.
"It was my husband who finally sent it in for me," she says. "When I came home, he told me what he had done. I was very scared." English is her second language. She didn't think she could be a missionary without perfect English.
"It's amazing when you serve God, when you serve and obey, how he opens doors in your life in many ways," Montano continues. "He will surprise you! I am serving in this country speaking my first language!"
Church and community workers are commissioned for service uplifting the poor and disenfranchised in rural and urban areas throughout the United States. Working to dismantle the barriers of poverty, they normally serve in a project for six to 10 years.
Montano is part of the Hispanic/Latino ministry in the West Ohio Annual Conference. Working with Latino women, youth and children, she directs programs to help raise self-esteem through Bible study, sports and other community-based activities. An attorney who specialized in family law in Colombia, she provides emotional support for people moving through the immigration process in the United States.
Describing mission as her passion in life, Montano says, "When you connect with people through your faith in God, it's every day, not just 9 to 5. It's a deep passion; you can't stay silent. When you open your mouth, it becomes easy to talk about him. Even when you're not ‘working,' you are always in mission."
Describing the gentle pull on her heart to enter full-time ministry, she says, "I didn't want to come to this country. My life was good in Colombia, but I believe in (God) and (God) is the most important thing to me.
"He called me to be in this annual conference and to do this work. So I must trust and obey. Your faith is different (from) your mind and your knowledge. If you obey, your physical eyes will see what God wants you to see."
My call to full-time mission service came in 2011. Twenty-four years old, fresh out of college and unemployed, I began to search for what I was called to do. I opened myself to the possibilities and prayed for God to show me the way.
I had a desire to travel. I became increasingly interested and invested in social justice issues, volunteering with a few local organizations. God began speaking the call into my life before I had any idea.
I am currently serving as a global mission fellow, part of Generation Transformation, young adults in mission through The United Methodist Church. I have committed three years of my life to using my faith as the framework to work toward justice in the United States and abroad. Global mission fellows engage with local communities, connecting the church in mission, while growing in personal and social holiness.
I served the first 18 months of my assignment in the Philippines with In Peace Mindanao, whose work focuses on peace advocacy and human rights. I helped design the organization's public outreach campaigns. I'm currently serving my domestic placement as the mission communicator with General Board of Global Ministries in New York. I tell the stories of young adults in mission around the world.
God surprised me and opened doors in my life that I could never have dreamed of, allowing me to do these things while serving him. My experience has shown me the reality of serving God through vocation. With whatever talents you have been gifted, God can use them for his glory.
Mission is a necessary element of the church and an expression of Christian faith; yet, we are all called to live out our faith in different ways. In what way will you answer God's call?
Laura K. Wise is a young adult missionary serving as a mission communicator with the General Board of Global Ministries, New York.
Learn more about the mission opportunities of The United Methodist Church at www.umcmission.org.
Originally published in Interpreter Magazine, September–October , 2014.