Sometimes I feel like I’m made up of contradictions.
I love traveling, but I hate traveling alone.
I long for new experiences, but I love the comfort of routine.
I’m flexible, but I want to have a plan.
It all sort of ends up feeling like a giant oxymoron if I think about it too long. This used to be a giant source of identity crisis when I was in my teen years. As I got older, I pinned it down to my very unusual upbringing, living on the mission field.
My parents were missionaries for fifteen years, and that meant we all moved around a lot. This developed certain traits in me that allowed me to blend in with wherever I happened to be. It took me a long time to realise that it was the lingering bits of all those cultures and places that made up who I was, and that it was okay. One of those traits that’s valued above most others in mission circles is flexibility. That’s never been needed more than now.
Missions has been my life since I was six, and both my entire family and I couldn’t help but wonder of the impact COVID-19 would have on the mission field. Our concern was valid, but we also didn’t anticipate how fast missions would adapt. It’s been rather awe-inspiring to watch how mission workers across the world re-evaluated how to reach people without being able to physically reach out.
This was especially evident as I continued my journey in missions by moving to Ireland during the pandemic to be a part of the OM Ireland team as an intern. The OM Ireland team has had to put those traits, like flexibility, into practice. An example is with our St. Patrick’s Outreach. Usually, it would have been a day with the Big Red Bus in a parade in the streets of Dublin, but this year the team spearheaded a week-long online event. We were able to reach people from six different countries and provide more in-depth material than usual because of how the team adapted and thought outside of the box. The ability to do the outreach in this way wouldn’t have been possible without current technology.
Technology has really helped those in missions to reach out more effectively and has completely rewritten how we interact with each other across the globe. It crosses borders and connects people in unique ways. For example, my sending church in Alabama (USA) has taken advantage of this and surprised me by inviting me to a Zoom call where all the missionaries they sent out had a chance to update the mission board as well as each other. It was a special two hours to pray for other ministries as well as hear about the personal struggles of people scattered around the world. When my mother heard this, she said, “That’s amazing! Even just ten years ago, the technology to stay in such close contact with sending churches just wasn’t there.” How crazy what can change in a decade! I was born in the late nineties, so while I had a childhood without smartphones, I’m so used to them now that this thought never would have crossed my mind. I appreciated her changing my perspective to better appreciate the technological opportunities that I have.
Missions has changed in many ways because of COVID, but not for the worse. The traits I learned in my early mission years, like flexibility, are the same traits that are helping mission workers around the world come up with creative solutions. We are reaching people and having experiences that we were never able to before through technology that we previously could only dream about. Every experience is a chance to learn something new and this crisis has brought with it a willingness to adapt and come up with new ways to reach those around us with the Good News of the Gospel.