On August 3rd, I became a missionary of the United Methodist Church. When I realized that I would become a missionary as part of this program, I immediately thought: “they are going to commission me? to do what?” But I’ve never read the Bible or the Book of Discipline or the Social Principles. What does it mean for me to represent the Methodist Church? How do I accept my place as a missionary when I disagree with the actions and policies of missionaries in the past?
When I tell people that I’m a missionary, they say “but you’re not…trying to convert people right?” No, I’m not “in the business” of converting people. This program is not similar to a Mormon-style mission. When I heard the word missionary, I used to think of late-nineteenth/early twentieth century church people who went to remote areas of the world to bring Jesus Christ to the heathens by destroying local culture. This happened and it didn’t happen. A number of those missionaries “went native,” adopted the local culture while starting churches. Many of those local churches flourished and people mixed Christianity with local customs. I still found it difficult to become part of a group which has been responsible for so much destruction.
The church has changed. The UMC sends out missionaries to be the hands of feet of God. To me, being a missionary gives me the opportunity to live out my faith. If people ask me why I’m doing this, it’s because I’m a Christian. I believe that being a Christian demands radical social change, and God calls us to fight for those changes.