When I was a new Christian, I thought the Lord required believers to go out and serve people in countries like Africa. Out of a desire to please the Lord, I called a nonprofit organization that sent volunteers to dig freshwater wells. To my surprise, they refused my help. “Why?” I demanded. “I’m sorry, but you’re only sixteen years old!”
Well, the Lord did require me to serve others, but Africa wasn’t the mission field God had in store for me. Pleasing the Lord does not require that we leave home and serve strangers. Our mission field may not be a foreign one, but a domestic one. The people He wanted me to serve were not strangers, but they were people He loved just the same. People that I loved too. Sometimes, the “others” we need to serve are just a few feet away.
Foreign missionaries bring back amazing tales of the lost being saved, of villages being helped, of communities being transformed. My church sometimes asks foreign missionaries to take the stage and share their exploits with the congregation. Caregiver missionaries rarely receive such fanfare. You will rarely see a caregiver being lauded for their sacrifices. Nevertheless, both are equally heroic—not because of anything in us, but because of the Holy Spirit who prompts us to put others’ needs above our own.
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. (Mark 5:18-20)
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:35-40)