I’ve heard of people posting a sign near the door of their home, dorm room, or wherever they live, simply stating: “You are now entering the mission field.” It’s a good way to look at life no matter where you are, but this weekend I found myself in a place where it’s impossible to feel otherwise.
Sarah, our son Luke’s fiancee, lives in an apartment complex in Dallas that houses refugees from all over the world. I was in town Friday morning for a speaking engagement, so I hung around to spend the evening with Sarah. When I pulled into her complex entrance, it was like passing through an invisible curtain into another country, or rather, a bunch of other countries all jumbled together.
The first two men I saw walking along the street had smooth, brown skin and ruggedly beautiful facial features. They wore colorful garments, including scarves on their heads, and something resembling a skirt hanging below their jackets. I guessed they were probably from an Asian tribal group, but I have no idea which one. As I drove slowly toward Sarah’s apartment, I saw people of every imaginable ethnicity outside enjoying the gorgeous weather. Children ran and played in the street. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be driven from your homeland, then transferred from a refugee camp to America. Most of them don’t speak English. Some have lost track of family members or watched their loved ones perish in violence. Looking into their faces, it was surreal to think the swanky Northpark Mall was less than a mile away.
I took Sarah out to dinner, then we returned to her apartment for a “slumber party.” (Later, as we drifted off to sleep, we laughed wondering how many young women have their future mother-in-law over to spend the night. I highly recommend it!) At one point in our conversation I asked Sarah if the various ethnic groups in the complex get along well with each other, and she said many do but sadly some do not. They form gangs and then commit crimes or pick fights with other gangs. Car break-ins are common. Some men who live right below Sarah and her roommate sometimes heckle them and have even come upstairs drunk in the middle of the night and beat on their door.
Sarah seemed a little hesitant to answer some of my questions, perhaps because she knew my mother-heart would want to snatch her out of that environment and hide her away someplace. And I confess that was my first impulse. But I know Sarah has a “you are now entering the mission field” heart. She moved to this complex intentionally, and the apartment she now shares with a friend she will share with my son come February. They believe God intends for them to go on the mission field overseas some day. It only makes sense then that, in the meantime, He has brought the mission field to their doorstep.
Funny side story: Several times in the night I heard a car alarm go off. Combined with the report of frequent car break-ins, that must have been what prompted a really ridiculous dream, in which I woke up and looked out the window to find my car had been dismantled and pieces of it riveted to other cars all over the parking lot. It felt so real and frustrating, I even thought, “I wish this was a dream! How am I going to get all the pieces of my car back?”
I’m pleased to report that, when I really woke up, I took Sarah out to breakfast in a car entirely unmolested by marauding bands of multicultural midnight welders. I asked her to bless the food, and I was struck by the way she began her prayer. “Thank you, Lord, for waking us up today.” The whole prayer had the fragrance of God’s nearness in the simplest of moments and smallest of gifts. It’s the kind of prayer that rises from a soul that has been bought with a price and knows she is not her own. As her beautiful faith breathed blessing on our breakfast and the day ahead, I realized that I would never wish Sarah and Luke out of a life that presses them into God moment by moment. A life where wisdom isn’t optional, discernment is required, and trust is standard equipment–as necessary for getting where you’re going as remembering to grab your car keys. You go knowing He covers you with the shadow of His wing and is bringing His will to pass with perfect faithfulness. He goes before you, behind you, and with you. Though your mind plans your way, He directs your steps. He guards you through the night. He wakes you up in the morning.
You know all this. And you also know that, when you open your door each day, you are entering the mission field. With Him. I can’t think of a better way to live. Can you?
Jeanne and Sarah. Breakfast at Panera.