Time for a story…
Back in the day (a.k.a. once upon a time) there was a tiny little village in the middle of nowhere that was known for absolutely nothing, had nothing of interest, and wasn’t even on most maps. I’m not even quite sure what the village was called, because no one ever bothered to put up a sign. It was full of common, ordinary people just like you and me.
However, one year the village’s small high school of eight students in total did something astonishing: their best athlete (out of the eight athletes at his school), Marvin, who was the in the best (and only) athletic program at their school (cross country) had led the team successfully to a victory in the regional cross country championships. Because of this, Marvin was designated to go on the state championship the next week. This little village, that until that day didn’t even really have a name, was suddenly the proud supporter of their fine athlete. And they quickly decided to name the village in honor of Marvin. But then they thought that was weird, so they named it Tiny instead.
When the day of the big race came, Marvin was anxious, worried, confused, panicky, frightened, nervous, fearful, excited, exhilarated, timid, and hungry—all at the same time. He had never been to a big city before, much less been in a state-level competition. Just next to him was the star cross country runner from the biggest high school in the biggest city in the state. This guy, Dusty, had had to work hard to be the best of thousands of students in his city to be in this competition. Marvin wondered why he himself was even there! His whole village had congratulated and encouraged him before he had left, but now he was on his own. How could he run this race on his own?
Marvin, Dusty, and the many other high school athletes lined up, preparing for a highly competitive, challenging, risky, life-threatening, perilous, difficult, turbulent, long-distance, quarter-marathon that looped around the city. Although it was possible (though not probable) that all of the athletes would cross the finish line, only one student would be the real winner in this race. The gun was shot, and the athletes took off.
Marvin soon learned why Dusty’s mom had put his name down as Dusty on his birth certificate—he had quickly left everyone behind in the dust, including Marvin.
As the athletes pummeled down the windy roadway, Marvin noticed how the light from the sun was blocked out from the tall buildings, the noise of the crowd was now far behind him, the smell of the city restaurants engulfed his nostrils, and his feet were already hurting from the hard, city pavement that he was dashing over. Marvin soon found himself dead last—and falling further and further behind. Marvin’s head sank in dejection.
Suddenly, at the sound of someone yelling “Marvin!” he turned his head—and was he surprised! Hanging off of a bunch of golf carts that were driving right next to the race track was everybody from his village! The mayor, his teachers, the two firefighters, the dentist, the garbage truck driver, his next-door neighbor, the local pastor, his best friend’s mom’s orthodontist’s cousin’s fiancé, and everybody else from his village was there, riding in the golf carts, cheering him on.
“You can do it Marvin!”
“We believe in you, Marvin!”
“Don’t give up now, Marvin!”
Marvin stared at them for a moment in shock and joy, then waved at them excitedly, and suddenly he started to speed up. As his village continued to cheer him on and follow him, he focused more on his breathing, strained himself forward, and soon was leaving the golf carts behind. However, they weren’t about to be left behind, and as they stepped on the gas, Marvin continued to speed up and give them a challenge.
Within just a few minutes, Marvin was back with the pack of other runners, and as his village continued to encourage him, he soon was just behind Dusty. Who would win the race????
Hopefully you realize that the obvious story is entirely fictitious (as far as I know). There’s no village named Tiny in the middle of nowhere that has encouraged and sent out their star athlete to a faraway place on a mission to put his village on the map, only for that start athlete to discover that the race is not so easy when he is far away from home and by himself. Or maybe not…
When Jesus headed back to heaven after his death and resurrection, he told his followers to go and make disciples, to be his witnesses, to share his Gospel with the whole world. And although for most of these passages in the Gospels he was speaking directly to a small, hand-picked group of dudes that he had been training for years, really, this mission (to share the Gospel) is the mission of the whole Church, not just a few dudes. Wherever you may be, if you have saving faith in Christ (a.k.a. you’re a Christian) then you have the awesome privilege to be sharing the Gospel right there, where you are at.
At the same time, there are a few of those weird people (myself included) who are sometimes called to go a little bit further out there with the Gospel. But that doesn’t mean that the village has left them behind…hopefully.
Right now I’m in the process of trying to finish up my last couple of weeks of school, say goodbye to all of my friends, and work on support-raising to get ready for moving to Lima, Peru. The difference between support-raising and fund-raising is that support-raising is about more than just getting enough money put together to pay for my two-year internship in Peru. Although support-raising does involve me getting funded, it involves a lot more.
Think of it like Marvin running all by himself, vs. Marvin running with the whole village supporting him. It’s an ongoing, continuous, supportive, reciprocal (two-way) relationship. I (and other overseas missionaries) get encouraged by churches and individuals, but I also encourage them to be active in their own mission field (one of the big reasons for this blog!). They pray for me, and I pray for them. And when it comes to getting funds, the goal is that, as much as possible (though it won’t always happen this way), rather than churches and individuals just one time for all writing a big check in my behalf, ideally they are instead continuing to make recurring gifts to keep me out in the overseas mission field, even if that means that those financial gifts look a lot more like $10 than $1000. That way, the work that I am involved in can continue on for longer than just two years…the work that is really God’s saving work in the world, and is much bigger than you or me (kind of like Marvin going to a really big race).
This difference, between simply getting enough money vs. raising support, is as big as the difference between Marvin running all by himself in a quiet, deserted street vs. Marvin running neck-and-neck with his village coming right alongside him.
SO, I invite you to join the village…or actually, better named, the tribe: The Tribe of Levi. There’s no T-shirt for this tribe, no single gathering place, and no logo. Being part of the Tribe of Levi means that you’re joining me in this race to share the Gospel. Maybe you won’t be alongside me in Peru, but you can still be active in supporting me wherever you are at through your encouragement, prayers, and continual financial support. And at the same time, I’ll be encouraging you as you run your own race to share the Gospel (the amazing news that we not only have forgiveness and redemption because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but we also have the chance to be reconciled with God, have a relationship with him, and be with him one day for forever and ever in the New Creation) wherever you may be.
Welcome to the Tribe of Levi!