Note: This is part of a series entitled “Why I Went.” I am asking people who cashed in the American Dream for a much bigger dream of sacrificial service in the Great Commission. This week I bring you the story of one of an engineer who is now working in Japan…
Five years ago wouldn’t have traded my lifestyle or career with anyone I knew. I managed the operation of a Lockheed L-1011 jet that is specially modified to launch rockets carrying small satellites into orbit. After work and on weekends I worked as a flight instructor, and several times each month flew as co-pilot on a business jet to destinations throughout the Pacific Northwest. It was a life of independence, challenge and excitement, and life was good. Church life kept me busy, too. For ten years my wife and I had championed the cause of missions at our local church, urging folks to pray, give, or go, as God would lead. My salary continued to climb, and the job assignments and flight experience continued to get more interesting.
One day I stumbled across II Timothy 2:3 in my Bible reading: “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” While this verse has been misinterpreted as commanding an ascetic or otherwise miserable life, I had to admit that my life at that time was playing out near the other extreme, handily avoiding any hardship on behalf of the gospel. I came to the conclusion that, at least in my case, there was dissonance between my comfortable existence and the dying to self that God’s people are called to in Scripture, which Ralph Winter calls a “wartime lifestyle.” That very day, I made the decision before God to pursue a lifestyle that clearly put Him first.
My childhood overseas acquainted me from the beginning with the work of missions. Attending the IVCF Urbana missions conference (I carry in my Bible the decision card I filled out back in 1984), taking a course titled Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, and going on a short term missions trip added perspective to my early memories, and acquainted me with God’s Big Plan. I began to understand that the Great Commission is not just for missionaries; it summarizes the task of the whole Church until Christ returns! Other passages tell us the details of what the Church is to be; how we are to relate to others; how we ought to serve and worship God; but, our overall task is to “make disciples.” The scope of this task extends to “all nations,” and we are to be about this task until “the end of the age.” So, now I had not only a commitment to pursue a wartime lifestyle, but now also a clear job description to go with it.
The clincher came through a third passage, the twin parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price found in Matthew 13. I realized that whatever good things I was enjoying, while not inherently wrong in any way, could not begin to compare with the rewards that I could enjoy by committing my life to pursuing exactly what Jesus had commanded His church to be about! Jesus made it clear that the good things of the Kingdom of Heaven could be obtained only through a thorough exchange of priorities.
Note that I have said nothing about being drawn to Japan. I never was “drawn” here. There is nothing here that naturally attracts me. I am motivated by the conviction that God really does mean for the Church to go to the ends of the earth to make disciples. I want to spend my life in obedience to the last command issued before the Lord was taken up into Heaven. I am not a big or important person, but I desperately want to tie my life into something big and important. I found out what that is, and through God’s grace and providence, hope to plant churches in the sometimes thorny ground of Japan.
I wouldn’t trade my lifestyle or career with anyone I know.