By Amy Medina
“I’m moving to Canada.”
Personally, Canada would be way too cold for me, but I understand the sentiment some have expressed. However, instead of fleeing for the hills—or tundra—maybe it’s time for American Christians to start living like missionaries in their own country.
Before you get offended, let me assure you I am in no way belittling the millions of American Christians who are already living out gospel-centered lives in their communities. As you learned in Sunday school when you were 5, we all are missionaries.
But I’m not talking about living as a proclaimer of the gospel, I’m talking about living as if America is not your country. Live as outsiders, exiles . . . as if you are living in a country that is not your own.
This is my life.
Not MY Country
I live in Tanzania—a country that is not mine. But I am living here as a long-term resident, so I care about what happens in Tanzania. I prayed during the election. I follow the news. I rejoice with Tanzania’s successes and hurt for its losses.
But this is not my country. I don’t expect that my political opinion matters much. I am not surprised if I experience animosity. I don’t expect to have many rights. I do expect to feel like an outsider.
It means that if I see things happening in Tanzania that I don’t like, I’m not going to be angry that my rights have been violated. This country has never existed for my sake. I might be sad, frustrated, or angry at the injustice others are experiencing. But this country doesn’t owe me anything.
This means I am here as a learner. It doesn’t mean I will agree with everything I see in this culture, but it does mean I am going to do everything I can to understand it. I want to understand the worldview.
I’m going to filter what I see in this culture through the lens of Scripture. I’m not going to assume that my way of doing things, or my way of thinking about something, is the best. If something bothers me, I will consider what the Bible says about it before making a judgment.
I’m not going to hole up in a little community that believes everything exactly as I do. I don’t sequester my children from people with different values or religions. My children might end up being exposed to things that distress me, but I must trust God’s sovereignty with that. The alternative is to lose our ability to be light in our community.
Not What I Can GET
I’m looking for what I can give this country, not what I can get out of it. I don’t expect businesses and government agencies to value the same things I do. I might be limited in the kind of work I can do here because my values are different. But that’s OK, because my goal isn’t to get rich, or to be safe, or to build my career. My goal is to further the gospel.
I don’t expect to be comfortable all of the time. I will sacrifice comfort and convenience for the sake of God’s work. I realize I will never be able to own a house here, and I know there’s always a possibility I will have to leave with only the shirt on my back. I try hard to loosen my grip on my possessions, knowing that my stay here is temporary.
Above all else, I am going to do my best to love the people around me. That doesn’t mean I unconditionally accept, or approve of, everything they are doing. Love and acceptance are not always synonymous. However, love is patient, kind, humble, generous, and long-suffering. I can love people in the way I spend my time, spend my money, engage discussion, and in the attitude I take toward culture.
Even if people disagree with what I think, I want my reputation to always be as someone who loves.
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. . . . Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13, 16).
Amy Medina was a missionary kid in Liberia. She has lived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, since 2001, where she and her husband serve in pastoral training. The Medinas have adopted four Tanzanian children.