Someone like me shouldn’t be in missions. I was born in the small Latin-American country of Honduras, in a city that used to be known as the “murder capital” of the world. I grew up in the poor parts of the New Orleans suburbs surrounded by bars, drugs, crime, and many more vices. I was raised in a poor, immigrant family with limited resources and a plethora of intrapersonal brokeness. I should’ve been another statistic you hear about in the news.
Yet, since God chose the lowly things of this world to nullify the status quo (1 Cor. 1: 27-31), he was delighted to use me in missions.
I discovered my place in missions through my Chi Alpha group as a student. The summer after my second year, I went on my first short-term mission trip. For the first time in my life, I witnessed God changing the hearts of people across the world as they were encountered with the gospel. I witnessed the good work of missionaries bringing material aid to those in need. I saw how God was reconciling people to Himself across different continents and time zones. I felt God at work in ways I had never experienced before.
That experience widened my heart for missions and God’s global plan to reconcile all peoples to Him. I realized that something had to be done about those who have never heard the gospel.
However, I also realized that this new understanding would cost me something: my own pursuit of the American Dream.
I didn’t go to college to become a minister of the gospel or a missionary. I went to college to rise above the situations I came out of, like the financial insecurities and relationshional brokenness. I didn’t see many brown, Latin-American people like myself in missions. In fact, all the missionaries I recall visiting my small church were white Americans who spoke Spanish with an American accent. Furthermore, how could I possibly go to the mission field when I didn’t have enough resources to do so? Would I really give up a certain future in order to seemingly embrace a life of more uncertainty? Was missions really a place for someone like me?
Similarly as Moses made up excuses to why he wasn’t the right person to lead the Israelites to the promised land (Exodus 3-4:17), I felt like I was not the most equipped person to do this task. So I also started making up excuses, but God, in his infinite patience, gave me the vision I needed to respond to the call.
I had my burning bush moment during a worship session. I was processing this call I sensed with the Lord and (again) giving him my excuses. That’s when I felt him say something along the lines of: “I don’t make accidents.”
In that small, yet infinite moment of worship, God began to reveal how many of the experiences I viewed as a detriment to ministry/missions he could actually use as strengths. For example, growing up as a third-culture person in America gave me a certain level of insight for serving in different cultures. Moving from place to place as a child (as hurtful and traumatic as that was at times) gifted me with an ability to not be afraid to explore new places. I even began to see how strategic it could be for a bilingual person like me to enter the mission field.
God doesn’t make accidents. He can even redeem all the baggage of your story for his kingdom’s sake in ways beyond what you can imagine. He certainly did that and is doing it for me.
In the course of the last decade, I’ve had the honor of serving on many mission trips as a Chi Alpha pastor. Soon, I will participate on my last short-term mission trip with Chi Alpha to Spain. Through our many short-term mission trips there, God gave my wife and I a long-term vision for how we could serve this country as missionaries. He showed me through the years how he could use a poor immigrant boy from the ugly suburbs of New Orleans in secular Spain, where less than 1% of Spanish people have a personal relationship with Jesus.
In my journey to the mission field, the largest mountain I’ve had to climb has been my own, self-imposed mountain of unbelief and insecurity. However, God is bulldozing it to make the path clear. I’m still amazed that He would choose me; but when I think about it and dwell in his word, it shouldn’t be surprising. It’s just who God is and how he builds his upside down kingdom through some of the most unlikely people like you and me.
If he can use someone like me, he can certainly use someone like you. He makes no accidents.