This past weekend I was blessed to be honored at my home congregation, Salem Lutheran Church. Sunday morning they held a Missionary Sending and Blessing Service. As I leave for the mission field I am aware that I am not going on my own but I am going as an Ambassador of Christ and a servant of the church. I am being sent by the entire church body of the LCMS and by Salem Lutheran Church specifically. I have been greatly humbled throughout this whole process of preparation by the vast numbers of people who are praying for me and supporting me. It was wonderful to feel the excitement and joy in my home congregation as they realized the reality of their part in sending a missionary into the world.
Professor Robert Roethemeyer came up from the Fort Wayne seminary to preach and join us in this celebration. He taught two of my classes, one in the fall of my first year and then one last summer. Professor Roethemeyer also helped lead a study aboard trip to our sister Church in India which I participated in. He and I have had much time to get to know each other during these events. He has played a key role in the Lord’s shaping of me and my goals for the future. Associate Director of Deaconess Studies, Amy Rast was also there to represent the seminary and support me. Amy and I have spent much time talking about the relationship between social work and diaconal work as we are both social workers. Her great experience in the field has been a blessing to me already and will continue to be one while I navigate the relationship between the two fields.
The service really brought home to me the reality of the call which I have accepted. During the service, I was installed as a missionary of Salem Lutheran Church. Pastor Menz asked me a series of questions similar to the questions in the rite of baptism.
“Will you undertake this service of love, relying upon the Blessed Trinity to guide and bless you in it? Will you devote yourself to hearing and meditating upon God’s word? Will you seek every opportunity to confess Christ before others and to share the hope that is yours in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as you have come to know it in the Scriptures and the Small Catechism and will you seek to adorn that Gospel with a godly life?”
To which I could only answer “Yes with God’s help.” It is my earnest prayer that the Holy Spirit keeps me and enables me to do all these things to the glory of the Father.
The final question caused me pause to search for my voice, as the reality of this call and all that it means for my future hit me. “Are you ready to assume the work of this missionary service?” Am I really ready? My bags aren’t packed, I know so little Spanish, I didn’t pay enough attention at Orientation, I don’t have good enough notes from classes…. My mind was a whirl with so many doubts about my own abilities. I felt so very small in that moment, and yet in feeling small there was comfort; comfort in the fact that God is the true author of every event in our lives. It is his work that I am doing and not mine, I cannot judge myself on my scale of pass or fail but only He can determine that, and He will, in His time and His way. Too often we try to judge ourselves by our own standards and too often we fall short. We often forget that it’s not about us; it’s all about Him. Paul so eloquently says:
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” Romans 3:23-25
It does not matter if I haven’t yet learned Spanish or if I forget everything they taught me at seminary. What matters in the end is only that I rest in my baptism which joins me to Christ. We are justified by faith alone. With this justification, comes sanctification, or holy living. Our ability to proclaim the wonders of the Lord are a part of this sanctification which the Holy Spirit works within us. It’s not about me but about the Trinity. Remembering this, I know that I am ready. Not because of anything in myself but because of Him and what He has done. I am ready to be His missionary; I dare to answer:
“YES I AM READY!”