I was nine years younger when I boarded the final plane that would end our thirty-hour journey to Yerevan, Armenia. I remember stepping on to that plane and walking down an aisle to see seats filled with Armenians – each man appeared to don the same black leather jacket, short hair and pointy black dress shoes – the rage for elves and men alike throughout the former Soviet Union. The women’s dark, shiny hair and high cheek bones reminded me of a plane full of young rock star Chers who, along with her famous Cherokee heritage, was also half Armenian.
After being crowded into my seat by all of their huge carry-ons (that I later learned are always filled with gifts for everyone they love), I remember looking around and trying to absorb their look, the fashion, and the attitude of this people group that we were about to submerse ourselves in as we started our missionary career. I watched their mouths move and gold teeth gleam as they spoke their native language. Would I ever be able to understand what they were saying? Would I some day too be able to contort my tongue to make the sounds that are so familiar to them?
As I write this, I am on a plane, but no longer the twenty-four year old that boarded that plane to Armenia nearly a decade ago. Once again we are embarking on a new missionary journey. I am on the final leg of twenty hours of travel and will land in Tallinn, Estonia within the next hour. I boarded the plane, and immediately began to look around at the passengers. The feeling was a familiar one. I look at their faces their blonde hair and blue eyes, their tall statuesque frames, and their European fashion. I smile at them to see if they will smile back at me or return my attempt with a cold stare. I listen to their language and notice the color of their passports. And, once again, I think…will I some day be able to speak their language? Will I be accepted into their culture and circle of friends? Will their norm become my norm? And those familiar feelings return as I am reminded that I am at the beginning of another new missionary journey. Ready or not, here I come.
I am trying to fulfill the Great Commission, the greatest verse Christians use as our mandate for missions. “Go into all the world…” That is the verse that got our family into missions and seated us on this plane to Estonia. But that is the not the portion of the verse that keeps us there. I have learned to hold most tightly to the final words of Jesus: “And I will be with you always, even to the end…” God was with me on that first flight into Armenia, and He is here with me now, seated on this airplane.
The burden of missions suddenly becomes lighter when we realize that all we have to do is “Go” and then He will do the rest. He is with us, and He is the one that truly draws people and changes their hearts. He walks with you when you fulfill His mission for your life in America, and He flies with us across the Atlantic Ocean on a plane, filled with culture shock, to move overseas. Let’s stop waiting to be sharp enough, bold enough, educated enough to fulfill His mission. I know I’ll never be blonde enough, tall enough, or speak the Estonian language good enough to do it on my own. Let’s just go, get in the race, and He will do the rest. We couldn’t have a better running partner.