Is It Worth It for Missionaries to Serve Overseas When There Is Need in the U.S.?
Larry Overholt, Missionary, Honduras
The Call, January-March 2017
The mystery of God’s call has continually intrigued me. From our early teen years, Angie and I have each sensed that God was calling us to be missionaries to a culture outside of the one into which we had been born. God’s call for us to serve as missionaries has developed over the years, but it has never wavered. We continue to serve in Honduras because God leads us in that direction.
Throughout our careers as missionaries, people have periodically asked us to explain why we continue to be missionaries overseas when there is such a need at home. The question has come to us in a variety of contexts. Perhaps, you have even wondered about these things from time to time.
There is ongoing concern about whether we will be safe. Family members, close friends, and even new acquaintances have expressed their concern for our physical welfare. Angie and I became missionaries 36 years ago because we understood that missionary service is our spiritual calling from God. We dare not be missionaries to Honduras without that call, and we dare not stay home if God is calling us to go to Honduras. For us, the decision to become missionaries has never been rational or calculated.
At times, people have wondered if we have fulfilled our missionary obligation and it is time now to return home. On occasion, we have even been offered jobs at home, assuming that missionary service was a short-term obligation.
For us, missions was not a training ground to do something else as a real career. Angie and I weren’t motivated to serve as a way to “find ourselves” or to use our experience as a springboard to a better career. This is what God called us to long-term.
Sometimes people are merely curious to know why someone would leave their home country and spend their entire career elsewhere. People have confided that they enjoy missions but have no idea how we can do it full time. Why would we continue to give up the comforts of home?
We’ve heard the sentiment that missionaries are no longer needed in other countries. Through modern communication technology, it is assumed that everyone can now “hear” the gospel. That assumption is based on the idea that the gospel comes primarily by hearing alone. There is still no more effective way of sharing Christ than by meeting people face-to-face in their communities and showing them that we care enough about them to be willing to become uncomfortable and that we desire to understand their needs.
We cannot underestimate the value of building relationships among members of Christ’s body worldwide. Working as multinational missionary teams contributes to a better understanding of each other and changes our worldview—for the better—in both directions.
We depend on a strong support team of faithful champions who provide economically for us to continue as missionaries. Many of them also come on work teams, and hundreds of people we know invest time in praying for the ministry in Honduras.
Several years ago, an older couple visited us on a work team in Honduras. They had supported us for years. As we said goodbye to them at the airport, they turned to us and said, “We came to see how our investment in missions was being used. We are going home knowing that our investment has been worthwhile.” The investment in missions is one that we gladly share with those who support us.
We recognize that there are many needs at home and that we could surely become involved in ministry there. Our specific call to serve as foreign missionaries does not make us any less responsible to those in need in the U.S. The call of God on us to be ambassadors of Christ wherever we “go” applies equally to every Christian.
Just as numerous people have asked us why we decided to become missionaries, a number of them have come to us with tears in their eyes, telling us that they had not been obedient to God’s call on their lives to become missionaries. It is never too late to contribute to the missionary cause. Angie and I will tell you, “It’s worth it!”