I was blessed to serve as a missionary over the past 4 years in Palau. The experience is one that taught me so much, not only about myself but about the world I interact with. Without a doubt, each year of service has increased my appreciation for the faith that I have, learning, and people.
It’s interesting, because I know the mentality we often have as we go to serve is that we’re going to change the world! After all, the Gospel Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) fills us with the spark and the power to go out there and really make a big difference for the sake of God’s kingdom. But for me, and for many missionaries alike, we find that the biggest differences are made in ourselves.
By interacting with the native people of Palau, I found a family among a people I never expected. Their love changed me, and only made me want to serve in more ways and better ways than I had from year to year. To be honest, the simple appreciation for people, people different than myself, wasn’t something I really had until I came out to Palau the first time. Palau has been a part of my life for the past 9 years, and that appreciation for them and for others continues to grow.
I learned many things in my time as a missionary, namely the purpose of service. I always thought it was always just about us trying to make the biggest difference and get the good news of Christ out into the world as quickly as possible so Jesus could return. While that is of course a big part of it, I’ve come to believe that God blesses us with the privilege of service as a benefit to us as well.
It might sound confusing, but telling someone about Jesus and serving like Jesus aren’t the same thing. In other words, we may not be accomplishing all that we think we are when we simply “tell” someone about Jesus and His love for them. We know that in terms of communication, the words that are spoken are worth the least, and the language of the body tells 90% of the story.
When it comes to Christianity, the Gospel in word is only useful if the Gospel in deed and action is revealed. That’s where the true power of the Gospel is. If all we do is tell people that Jesus loves them but never show them that He does, we’re actually doing more harm than good.
It’s a great cycle: our service shows others that we truly believe in what we say, while helping us to appreciate others more, and we continue to serve. Our service increases, and the evidence for what we believe and Who we believe in increases.
That’s why service is so important. It’s the link that makes the story we tell from our mouths believable, it’s the link that reveals the truth of a God who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us, and it’s the link that makes this God worth living and serving for.
My encouragement to everyone is to choose to serve. In any way, whether overseas for a year or two or in the opportunities that come up in the day to day – choose to serve. It’s what it really means to be like Jesus, and it’s the one thing that can change the minds of the unbelievers, and fortify the minds and resolve of the believers.
I served as a missionary for 5 years. The first taste of mission service was after I graduated from Southern Adventist University in 2010 and returned for 4 consecutive years from 2015-2019. I have finished my time in Palau (for now) and am heading to Andrews University to work on the Masters of Divinity, as I plan to pursue military chaplaincy.