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How I became a missionary

Every CMS missionary has a different story of God at work in their life. CMS missionary M was surrounded by missionaries at church from an early age. She reflects on how childhood fascination grew into solid and long-term mission commitment.

Growing up in a church filled with returned missionaries, it was foreseeable that I might become one. I was surrounded! Most but not all of the returned missionaries were older ladies. Many had used their secular professions, as part of a missionary organisation, to share Jesus in word and deed, and I would sit and listen to their stories of life in other countries.

Hearing about mission as a young girl

There were link missionaries from organisations like CMS who often visited Sunday School and showed us photos, maps and artefacts. They would spend with our church, giving me ample opportunity to listen and get to know them. I was transfixed! These faraway places and people—it was like a fantasy world. We prayed for our link missionaries every week, and made food parcels for them when they returned to Australia. Church members, including me, were encouraged to write a paragraph to a missionary on an aerogram.[1] As a result of all this, I think I learnt more about the world in church than I did at school.

Over the years, travelling to visit my father’s relatives in the UK meant stopovers in Bangkok and Hong Kong. My parents made sure we visited the link missionaries from our church who lived in these cities. As a family, we supported the newly established Chinese congregation in our church by often attending their regular lunch after church and befriending many of them. Sometimes Alan Cole (a former CMS missionary in South East Asia) would visit and preach in Mandarin or Cantonese. Wow! Imagine being able to speak another language. I loved hearing his stories too.

Shaped by significant stories

Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I devoured biographies of the lives of different missionaries: Hudson Taylor, William Carey, Gladys Aylward, Amy Carmichael, Brother Andrew, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, and many others. I read stories of Christians who had been persecuted, such as Richard Wurmbrand.

When I was 13, I read Peace Child, about Don and Carol Richardson, who first brought the gospel to the Sawi people of New Guinea. This book was more than just a story. It showed me that being a missionary was tough, dangerous, challenging and long-term. Yet I learnt that God helps his people understand culture so his gospel can be shared with the whole world. There was no need to fear! I think from that point on I wanted to be a missionary, although I do not remember sharing this with anyone.

Towards mission with CMS

As I got older, I attended the ReachOut Missions Conference (where many CMS missionaries are involved) and discovered the numerous possibilities that exist for overseas gospel work. I started asking God: what profession should I study after school that would be easy to take overseas? Which country should I go to? When? Which organisation should I go with? All these questions needed answers, but I was never really anxious about them. God always provided people to counsel me, often people with a connection to CMS.

The name CMS had been ingrained in me from a young age. A group from church attended CMS Summer School every year. Everyone was encouraged to attend, so I was taken along as a young child. CMS missionaries were influential in my decision-making from the beginning, particularly the older returned missionaries. I could talk to them regularly and observe their lives. I decided to study teaching at university, a transferable profession, and sought to learn about missionary schools from various link missionaries. I was encouraged to take the ‘Perspectives’ Course on world mission run at the CMS office. Shortly after this I went on a short-term CMS mission trip to Nairobi.

All of these experiences and those I talked with helped me to understand that I needed to go to Bible college first if I wanted to apply to be a missionary long-term. After working as a teacher for a few years, God opened the door in his perfect timing for me to study at Bible College.

An unexpected location

The missionary dream of my youth was slowly turning into a reality, although not quite in the way I thought. I had grown up talking to missionaries who had returned from countries in Africa or Asia. I expected to end up in one of these continents. God had a different idea. I observed the difficult visa circumstances of a few CMS missionaries as they struggled to stay in Europe. I had a British passport and realised that the option of working in Europe was wide open. But was Europe a mission field? I had not really thought about that before.

Finally, after all those years of build-up, I left Australia for Germany in August 2005. But I didn’t go as a ‘missionary’ connected with an organisation. Instead I chose to take a secular job, teaching at an international school and involved in a local church in an area of the world with very few Christians. I didn’t become a CMS missionary in the conventional order. Everything has been a little backwards! I first attended St Andrews Hall in 2018 after living and working overseas for 13 years, and only recently became a CMS missionary.[2] Our God has a wonderful sense of humour! Writing this article has lead me to reflect on the amazing ways God has used all of the people and circumstances in my life to put me where I am today: using my profession in a foreign land to bring glory to him and helping to make the name of Jesus known throughout the world.

CARE

How are you and your church nurturing a heart for mission in young people? Perhaps you too can care for a CMS missionary-to-be by sharing your passion for mission or by volunteering to help on a CMS children’s camp or summer conference. Contact your branch to offer help.

 

[1] An aerogram is a lightweight piece of letter-writing paper that could be written on; then folded and glued and sent overseas at a cheaper postage rate.

[2] M served as a CMS Short Term Worker in Germany from 2008 to 2017.