Why I’m A Missionary

I spent last week at the YWAM Connect conference for global communicators, and as we all met together for the first evening we were asked to introduce ourselves and explain how we became involved in ‘mission’. Here’s my story:

#1 The Predestining Call of God

Before I was formed in the womb, God knew me; before I was born, God set me apart to be a prophet to the nations – oh wait, maybe that was Jeremiah, not me.

Hermeneutics aside, before I was born, my parents became convinced that God had called them to be missionaries. So they studied at All Nations Bible College, and joined OMF to plant churches in the Philippines. Which is the point at which I enter the story.

#2 The Logic of the Gospel

Growing up as a missionary kid means that for as long as I can remember I have known the gospel – that (altogether now):
– God loves you
– But you’ve sinned
– But Jesus died for your sins
– And so you need to decide to follow Jesus
And the missionary logic of the gospel has also been clear to me as long as I can remember.

If the Bible says, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”, then as Paul puts it in Romans 10, “How then shall they call unless they believe? And how can they believe unless they hear? And how can they hear unless someone tells them? And how can someone tell them unless that person is sent?”

#3 The Joy of Full Surrender

There is a difference though between intellectually understanding — and even affirming the truth of — the gospel and surrendering your life completely to do whatever Jesus might require of you. After spending a few moments amidst the angst of one’s teenage years trying to work out an apologetic defense of my personal belief in the historical fact of the gospel, I was baptized at the age of seventeen.

But it was the following year, at a weekend Christian camp, that I heard a preacher proclaim the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit in a way like I had never seen before. And people were giving their lives to Jesus and being filled with the joy of the Lord and sharing their stories with a vulnerability and freedom that astonished me – and I wasn’t feeling it.

‘Why’s everyone else got this joy and not me?’ I asked, half in prayer and half just to myself. And God answered – not with a booming voice from heavens, but just with a simple thought that suddenly popped into my mind:

‘Get over yourself!’

So, in the final session of the weekend, I attempted to do just that. I put up my hands for the worship songs, even tried jumping up and down with everyone else; I laughed at the bad jokes the preacher made as he introduced his message; I stopped being overly critical of every expository point that he made. And as I let my guard down, the sharp double-edged sword of the gospel began to cut me to the heart. And when the preacher gave his final appeal for people to stand up as a sign of giving their lives completely to follow Jesus, I realized that although I had willingly committed myself in baptism, it was as though I had mentally been saying to God, ‘I’m willing to obey you so long as I understand you – but I don’t want to be one of those crazy Christians…’ And I realized that if God was real, I needed to trust him completely. Even if it meant being one of those crazy Christians.

So I surrendered my life, my rights, my desire to not be too crazy a Christian, all of it – to Jesus. And I stood up.

And I was filled with an uncontainable joy that immediately I was trying to share with whoever would listen – at church the weekend after we had returned from the camp, with friends at school who were somewhat bewildered by the sudden transformation in the lives of those who had gone on this weekend away, and with a growing number of other people that continues to increase.

#4 The Burden for the Lost

I then came up to university to read Mathematics. And by the start of my second year discovered that I was not as good a mathematician as I might have hoped – nor as diligent a student as my tutor might have hoped.

But though I might not have learnt much in my second year about groups, rings and modules, or complex analytic methods, or quantum mechanics, or fluid dynamics, God did begin teaching me about prayer.

And as I began learning to pray and intercede for others, God began to share something of his sorrow towards sin with me. And for the first time, I began to weep on behalf of ‘the lost’ – like Jesus over Jerusalem (Lk. 19:41).

#5 The Push of the Holy Spirit

A year later, having switched from Mathematics to Theology, I went to visit a friend in Egypt. And while there I had the chance to visit Mt Sinai – the place where Moses saw God’s glory, the place where Elijah heard God’s still small voice, and the place where (NT Wright suggests) Paul went in between being confronted the risen Jesus and beginning to proclaim that Jesus was indeed the true Messiah. And the night after we had trekked up Mt Sinai to see the sun-rise, I found myself unable to sleep, my imagination gripped with ridiculous nations of preaching on street corners like some urban John the Baptist.

Back in England, the ridiculous notions refused to disappear. And so — initially with no small amount of trembling — I started street-preaching.

#6 The Gentle Suggestion of a Friend

Fastforward another couple of years, and after managing to get myself a degree and (more importantly!) a wife, I was spending a year working with Cambridge Presbyterian Church. But what I was going to do after that year came to an end was a question whose answer I did not know.

Until one morning a good friend mentioned that he had been praying for Taryn and me, and felt like we needed to step away from things in Cambridge and spend some time together laying a foundation for whatever we might end up doing with our lives. “Maybe you could do a Discipleship Training School with YWAM,” he suggested.

The suggestion was gentle but as we talked about it that evening, it fell with the weight of a brick dropped from heaven. We did need to step away from what we were trying to do in Cambridge, at least for a season.

And after looking at various options we decided that a Youth With A Mission DTS was indeed the way for us to do that.

#7 The Emptiness of our Excuses

Our DTS took us on outreach to the beautiful country of Rwanda, and it was there one afternoon that my beautiful wife and I were discussing the various possible things that we might do after our DTS had finished. This wasn’t very difficult to do, as all the people who had offered any specific suggestions seemed to be recommending the same thing: that we stay on at YWAM Harpenden.

But there were obvious challenges to this option. Would we have a flat of our own? (After a year and a half of marriage in which we had always been living in other people’s houses — and sharing bathrooms — we were beginning to feel like this was important.) Where would our income come from? (Everyone who works with YWAM is a full-time unpaid volunteer supported by the gifts of friends who believe in their calling.) What about family members’ expectations of us? And what about– thus our list went on.

That evening as we were having dinner, Bella (the Rwandese lady who we were working with) asked from the opposite corner of the room where we were planning to work as missionaries. Surprised by the suddenness of the question, I gave a somewhat vague answer. Bella wasn’t satisfied and hastened over to our corner so that we wouldn’t miss any of what she was about to say:
“God is calling you to be missionaries–but you’re worried about having your own house.” (–How did she know?–) “Don’t worry — God will provide what you need.”
And she proceeded to specifically name and explode every single one of the objections to continuing in YWAM that we had discussed that afternoon.

So that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I signed up to be a YWAM missionary.

Now your turn! Whether you’re a missionary or an avowed atheist — what’s the story of why do you do whatever it is that you do?

Very Brief Summary Of Our Outreach

During the two week Circuit Riders school there were a reported 129 salvations and 52 healings. How do you follow that? Well — by doing more of the same.

Fortunately God doesn’t change from day to day or place to place. And in our two week outreach we saw 30 salvations and 15 healings. (Which is more than twice as much per capita: our team was 20 people, compared to over 200 in Harpenden for the training phase.)

Here are the bare details that I scribbled down in my notebook as I tried to keep track of what God was doing through our team. With a few video testimonies thrown in for your multimedia viewing pleasure.

Saturday 14th July
Outreach began. The team travelled to Leytonstone, where we were staying with Cornerstone church who are doing ‘Burn 24/7’ worship over the Olympics. In the afternoon, went to Trafalgar Square to join the prayer flashmob.

Sunday 15th
Day off.

Monday 16th
First team meeting — important to set the rhythm from the start. Worship, teaching (Big 10), affirmations, testimonies.

Tuesday 17th
Evangelism and prayer-walking around Westminster with the team from Herrnhut:

– Hunter met a French man with his leg in a cast, prayed — pain went.
– Rachel met a group of Hindus. Prayed for one’s bad back, pain went. The other two subsequently also wanted prayer.
– Jessica had felt several days before that the Spirit was giving her authority to pray for barren women. Met such a lady, from France. And prayed for healing.

Then squeezed in evensong at Westminster Abbey before joining Prayer for Parliament and getting to go into the Houses of Parliament to intercede for the government.

On the way home, Magda shared the gospel with a Portuguese lady on the Tube. Had just finished leading her through a prayer of repentance, when we arrived at our station, and she leapt through the train’s doors just as they were closing.

Meanwhile, Allison had returned to Cornerstone earlier to help with the Burn. And led 3 ex-drug addicts to the Lord.

4 salvations, 5 healings

Wednesday 18th
Local outreach around Leytonstone in the afternoon. I’ll let Naomi tell the story:

1 salvation, 2 healings

Thursday 19th
Local outreach again.

– Ashley, Chelsey, & Allison prayed for a man with a bad back. He said the pain went.
– Janette shared the simple gospel with a group of girls, and one of them received Jesus

– Magda & Steven shared the gospel with a Bangladeshi teenager and he accepted Jesus into his heart.

2 salvations, 1 healing

Friday 20th
Prayer and evangelism in groups of three or four from the Tower of London to St Paul’s Cathedral.
– Ashley prayed for a girl with knee pain while we were on the Tube to Tower Hill — and the pain went.
– Matt prayed for a girl on crutches — but I’ll let him tell the story:
– Chelsey’s team saw an English security guard and then 3 French students give their lives to Christ

– And since our call is not only to save the lost, but also to revive and encourage the saved, here’s Tyas talking about a chat he had with a Christian:

4 salvations, 2 healings

Saturday 21st
A more relaxed day.

Sunday 22nd
Officially a day off, but when you’re trying to live like Jesus that doesn’t mean there can’t still be healings…

– Allison prayed for a skater with a twisted ankle, and the pain went
– Tyas met a homeless man who had pain throughout his body, prayed, and the pain went.

2 healings

Monday 23rd
Instead of going out to do evangelism, we stayed at home to plough the spiritual ground by doing intercession.

– Still, in the evening, Hunter went to the pub and was able to minister to the girl behind the bar:

1 healing

Tuesday 24th
Tuesday morning we learnt about the power of the Holy Spirit — “the power which raised Jesus from the dead” (Eph.1) — and then went and did ‘the stuff’!

– Barely had I walked out of the door of the house, than a man sitting on a little wall beside the pavement said to me ‘I’m spiritually dead. Can you help me?’ We shared the gospel with them, and he prayed a simple prayer committing his life to Jesus.

– In the afternoon we went to St Paul’s Cathedral, and we (including 7 who had never done any street preaching before) proclaimed the truth of the gospel to those sitting on the steps.
– Steven shared the gospel with a Brazilian who accepted Jesus:

– While at St Paul’s, some of the team prayed for a girl on crutches who had fallen twenty feet a couple of years before, broken both legs, and had continued pain in both legs. The pain went, and the girl was able to walk without needing the crutch.

– On the way home, Magda shared the gospel with a girl in a devil costume who accepted Jesus.

– And after joining us for the evening, Paul led an Italian man to the Lord on the Tube on his way home.

4 salvations, 1 healing

Wednesday 25th
The anointed Ashley led our team into more of the joy of the Lord than we had yet experienced, and we spent the morning shamelessly praising Jesus with all of our might.

And in the evening, the team sent me and Taryn off on our own to have some couple time :)

Thursday 26th
We debriefed the team, as people were beginning to leave from Friday onwards. Counted up a total of 15 salvations and 14 healings. In the afternoon, some of the team went to scout out the Olympic Stadium (where the Opening Ceremony would be happening the following day). In the evening all of our team joined the Burn.

Afterwards, we split up, boys and girls, for a final social evening. The boys went to the pub, but before the girls could start anything they received news that Chelsey’s best friend had been in a car crash and was in a coma. I’ll let Taryn tell the story of their immediate intercession helping restore her to health:

Friday 27th
Friday was the day of the Olympic Opening Ceremony. I woke up early with an incredible sense of expectancy: REVIVAL IS COMING! Our morning worship propelled us out into the streets (literally), and in the afternoon we were in Brixton doing evangelism around the estates.
– Matt & Magda both each led someone to accept Jesus.
– Myself, Naomi and Camilla met a man with a crutch and asked if we could sit with him. We shared some of the stories of healings we’d been seeing and asked if we could pray for him. He said he felt a tingling all down his leg and was then able to walk on it without the crutch.

– In the evening some of us stayed in Brixton to be part of the youth meeting which Kate had invited us to. She shared a simple gospel message and six kids prayed the prayer of repentance with her. But the crazy bit is what happened when Jessica prayed for two of them to receive the Holy Spirit:

– On the way home, we passed some other evangelists doing street-preaching. A man called Ted stopped to listen, and I struck up conversation with him. And he believed the gospel and let me lead him in a simple prayer of repentance.

– And later we heard from those who had gone to the Olympic Opening Ceremony that Magda had led three more people to the Lord.

12 salvations, 1 healing

Saturday 28th
I woke up and had a leisurely breakfast, watching some of the highlights of the Opening Ceremony on iPlayer. I then checked my phone and discovered that I’d missed a message from Sara, who had left the night before to get to the airport. It was an emergency: she had left her passport in Rachel’s car. This led to me and a few others heading to Heathrow to try and find her — only to find that being a US citizen she had been able to fly without her passport. *Sigh of relief *

– Meanwhile, the rest of the team had returned to the Olympic stadium, where Magda had led two more people to accept Jesus as Lord.
– Jessica spoke to two Muslims who were also using the Olympic as an opportunity to proselytize, and gave them more to think about than I think they bargained for:

– And the team made friends with a Muslim girl called Siddra, whose birthday it was, and returned home to find that Allison had been prompted by the Spirit to make a birthday cake!

2 salvations

Sunday 29th
Before leaving on Sunday afternoon, we had the chance to share a few testimonies at Cornerstone church. And as Taryn and I were making our way with our luggage to the station, we met Steven walking back to the house.

He was smiling.

He’d led another person to the Lord.

1 salvation

Total: 30 salvations, 15 healings

And as we end, let me just reiterate this point. I tell these stories not to make you think I’m anything great — most of the stories didn’t really involve me. But they all involved Jesus. He deserves the glory. As the Bible says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

This was the sixth part in a series of posts on The Circuit Riders school. The fifth is here, the fourth is here, the third is here, the second is here, and the first here.