On Monday, I came home to find your letter, written with cool sparkly pink ink. You and I met really, for the first time in June when our friend Miss Jenn became Dr. Kintner, but I have loved your parents since before they knew each other and have followed your life from its very beginning!
You and I explored the library at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with your mom. And I stood, choked up, as I watched your excitement to see the artifacts from Lottie Moon. She is one of my heroes, too. When I think of her, I think about how God can use simple people who are faithful. That’s good news for me–and you, too!!
You asked me in your letter if I could show you how to be a missionary. It sounds to me as if you already have an understanding of the most basic part of being a missionary: telling people about Jesus. I will be praying with you that you have another opportunity to tell your friend more about who Jesus is and what He has done.
There are a few pieces of advice that I would give you. Don’t worry about doing all of these things at the same time–each one is a tool that will help you grow in understanding of who God is and how He might use you. They also are all things you can do while you are still in 4th Grade–or in University–or as a 60-year-old grandma.
Read. First of all, read your Bible. As you read, the most important question you can ask is: “what does this passage tell me about who God is?” Or “What is God’s character?” Take note of that. God’s character drives everything else in the Book!!
The next thing I would recommend that you read is stories about missionaries. Missionary biographies are remarkably efficient reading because you learn about God, cultures, history, adventure, about people’s failures, and about their faithfulness. Some of my favorite biographies are about Eric Liddell and Lilias Trotter. I have written some more suggestions of other books that I read when I was your age, and you can read that list here. Make sure that you check out numbers 1, 2 and 3 on that list! And for your older friends, any of the books on this list here might also be useful.
Pray. You have already mentioned that you were praying for your friend. You can also get missionary prayer letters, and pray for the things these friends ask for. Missionaries from your church would love it if they knew you were praying for them! Also, sometimes missionaries write on blogs. One of my favorites is written by my friends Dave and Stacey Hare. They write very honestly about life in Cameroon as Bible Translators. Dave and Stacey also have four kids–all about your age, Ava!!!
But don’t just pray for others, Ava. You can pray for yourself, as well. James writes that “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach.” (James 1:5) You can ask God for wisdom, and He promises that He will give it. You can pray both for today, but also about a future place of ministry, future coworkers, a future family–anything!
Talk. The next piece of advice I would give you is to talk to people. That is really hard sometimes, right? I have an easy time speaking to 100 people at one time, but one person I don’t know is much harder! But, that is what we are called to do.
God has revealed Himself to us through words in the Bible and it requires words for us to communicate who He is to a watching world. People are fond of misquoting Francis, a church father from over 1,000 years ago as having said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” I liked that quote for a while, even had it hanging in my office. But the more I looked at it, the more realized it was just wrong. Being nice to people is great, but Gospel-work involves speaking.
So, practice with people. Is there a new kid at school or church? Introduce yourself. Do you see a teacher working on something? Ask if you can help. Think of a question you would like to have asked of yourself and then ask them. And if all else fails, you can always ask, “Are you reading anything interesting now?” Then ask yourself, “What do I not know about what they just said?” Then ask that question and another and another. . .
Talk to missionaries who come to visit. Ask the pastors and teachers at church what advice they would give you. Ask the checker at Target how their day is going. Look the lunch lady in the eye and say, “Thanks for your hard work.” I guarantee it is a great way to start conversations. And conversations lead to relationship and the Gospel.
This is getting way longer than I had expected, Ava, but I have few more pieces of advice: Try, Write, Serve and Love God, Love People. It is my joy and honor to write to you of these things, and, Lord willing, you will hear from me again next week.
For the King!