In the deep shadows of decrepit buildings, ruins of the past, city-dwellers scurry across a bridge built by the people who lived here over a hundred years ago. The missionaries survey the faces of the indigenous people, each scarred by a life lived hard. Those sent to this place pray for the Holy Spirit to empower them, to give them the words, to help them love like Christ. They’ve studied this culture, and they know how to relate to the hurting, how to share the power of the gospel with them.
They are sojourners without ever boarding a plane. You see, these are American missionaries to America, fellow citizens who know they need not travel anywhere to obey Christ’s command.
My whole perspective changed several months ago when I met someone who had traveled from Africa to share Jesus. Here—he came to my city to share the gospel—he traveled thousands of miles to the very place where I, a Christ follower, lived. I’ve been so conditioned to think of missions work as something super-spiritual people do in countries without electricity that the notion that someone would see America as a mission field rocked me to the core.
Why did he have to come here if I’m here? If millions of people in this country claim Christ?
But I’ve realized this amazing brother from Africa is right. He lives for Christ here because the American church has not. We rarely believe in the power of the Spirit to convict and to transform and to make the grace of Jesus real. We rarely take that knowledge to the people in the next house over.
Instead, people have to come here from Africa to do what we should be doing. If we want a mission field, the harvest is ripe on Twenty-Second Street and Vine.