Starting in high school and ending when I graduated from college, I went once a year on a mission trip, to Mexico, Croatia (and Slovenia), and finally to France. I had been to France originally with a study abroad program through my college, and while I was there, I met a missionary that I wanted to go back to help. France may have ornate cathedrals, a prominent one in the center of every country village, but I found that these beautiful places were for the most part empty, no matter what day of the week it was.
When I had done mission trips before, I had worked with children or teens, telling them about God’s love. A few times I helped build a roof, doing something tangible to help someone in poverty. I made friends, some of whom I am still in touch with today. My trip to France was something different, and to me, very frustrating. I didn’t talk to a single French person about the love of God. I spent my time working on the computer for the missionary there, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was on my knees cleaning out the floor of his van with a toothbrush. Yes, a toothbrush. He said it was so that he could have a spotless vehicle with which to transport picky Parisians, but this was the hardest job for me to swallow. It was tedious and felt worthless. I came all the way across my country and the Atlantic Ocean to meticulously clean out a car? I wanted a more glamorous job that would bring me some emotional highs! I wanted to instantly see the fruit of my labor, something more worthwhile than a clean floor.
Looking back with eyes a little more mature than they were at the time, I can see that my little jobs were probably blessings to the missionaries who worked there full-time, giving them an extra boost to continue doing their job well. In addition, I can’t count the prayers I prayed for those very missionaries over the years. Looking back at pictures, I remember now the tears that clouded one sweet French missionary woman’s eyes when I left on the train to go home. If I had had my choice, I wouldn’t have even done those mundane, yet encouraging, tasks at all.
In fact, it took me so long to figure this out that my France trip was one of the last mission trips I had for a long time. God put a stop to any more trips until I figured out that I was searching for the glamor of missions more than serving Him humbly. I had to realize that my life is to be a mission wherever I am. When I finally figured that out, He let me co-lead a church trip to Southeast Asia with my husband twice and find ways later to connect with those same girls from Asia in my own home throughout the year.
Do you ever feel that your job is meaningless—that you’re not doing something “important” enough? If you’re a mother, people might tell you that raising children is the most important thing you’ll ever do, and you might agree with them in your head, but it usually doesn’t feel that way when you’re in the never- ending cycle of vacuuming, wiping the table, putting away laundry, and wiping bottoms.
What I have to remember is that the test of importance is not whether or not I get an emotional high—it’s not about me, anyway. It’s whether I’m following God’s will for my life that day, that moment, and if I’m following it well with His help. In that case, I may not see a life dramatically change under God’s hand, but I could give God’s love day by day and watch Him gently mold a heart.