Monday, July 18, 2016

An Economic Missionary?

My mom (center), five kids, and their spouses.
Last week, I was able to celebrate my mom's 80th birthday.  We are so blessed to have such a healthy and happy mother, who is enjoying these years with her sisters, taking care of my Dad, and loving her children and grandchildren.  We were able to get together with all five children and spouses, as well as many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, aunts and uncles, and many friends to celebrate her 80 years.

On our way back from Canada, we stopped at the border and I handed the border guard the passports.  As is often the case, this guard reacted to the thickness of my passport.  Here is how the conversation went:

The five of us, torturing our dear mother.
Guard (weighing my passport against the other three I had handed him):  Is this your passport?  Why is it so thick?
Me:  I travel a lot for work.
Guard:  What do you do?
Me:  (in an effort to keep the answer simple and short) I am in international development.
Guard:  What does that mean?
Me:  I do business development in various parts of Africa.
Guard:  What does that mean?
Me (wondering how long of an answer he might want):  Well, we work to develop businesses so that poverty can be alleviated.
Guard:  Who is we?
Me:  I work for International Christian Missionaries.
Guard:  Oh.  Okay.  (pause, thinking) So you are like an economic missionary?
Me:  Sure.  We can go with that.

I often don't know how to describe what I do.  On landing cards for different countries, I tend to put "business consultant" because that is something most people understand.  When talking with Christians, I tend to say "missionary" because that is what many understand.  If I had said "economic missionary" when I pulled up to the border, he would have had no clue what I was talking about.

But then the conversation with the guard got a bit more fun:
Guard:  Are you bringing any goods back with you to the US?
Me:  Potato chips
Guard:  (tipping his head as he is thinking) Ketchup?
Me:  No, but that was a close second!  "All-dressed" chips.
Guard:  Any chocolate?
Me: Unfortunately no.
Guard:  Really?  No Coffee Crisp, Smarties???
Me:  I wish we had.  But no.
Guard:  Well the bridge is really slow today.  I can let you turn around and get some yet if you want.
Me:  (laughing) No, that's okay.
Guard:  Are you sure?  Their chocolate is so good!
Me:  I appreciate the offer...but we are okay.

We were then released.  I wish I had told him, as he stood there in his bullet proof vest protecting our borders and trying to make people smile while doing his job, that I appreciate how he is serving our country.  I wish I had asked him whether I could say a prayer for him and the safety of this particular border.  Next time I hope not to miss that opportunity.

It's such a complex world that we live in.  So many trials and tribulations.  Although I hear over and over again that things are getting worse in the world, the statistical truth is that things are actually better overall.  What feels worse is that because of social media, we now know of every abuse, killing, and attack with vivid detail, often as it happens.  But never-the-less, there are many trials and tribulations in the world.  And yet, we are called to continue to act in so many different ways to fulfill God's call on our life.  For me, I'm an "economic missionary."  That is my calling and I am embracing my work as an ambassador of this work.  It is challenging at times, but we all have challenges no matter where we work or with whom.  Where-ever there are human beings, there are challenges; one of the real challenges how to turn those challenges from problems to opportunities. 

This saying has been my encouragement in the last week and I hope it also encourages you: