Typical missionaries as the American church tends to think of them live overseas. They come home to the U.S. for sabbatical to get some rest and relaxation, see family, and recharge for return to the mission field abroad.
When I visited Colorado (home), I had parents to take care of me, I barely checked my phone or email, I felt rested. It was quiet…I could wake up in the morning without my neighbors rap music blasting upstairs, or the sound of children and gang bangers running up and down the stairs. I never once heard a helicopter or a police siren.
I watched snow fall silently, watched movies and laughed and ate with family and let my parents pay for everything.
Then I came back to Los Angeles. Suddenly, I felt like a missionary. Don’t get me wrong, I love L.A. But I love L.A. because I love L.A.
Meaning, my appreciation of the city is based on the love that God has put in my heart for it’s brokenness, unique qualities, and unconventional beauty. I choose to love it, in other words, and it becomes incredibly loveable as a result.
I know some people find it horribly unappealing to live in Hollywood, and as I saw 3 arrests and about 14 cop cars (literally) within a half mile stretch of Santa Monica Blvd on my ride back from the airport, I was reminded that I love this city because God has called me here. Like a missionary to Uganda loves Uganda because of God’s heart, not because they find it terribly fun to live without luxuries and in the midst of turmoil.
It’s hard to think of missionaries in American cities as missionaries, but it’s not always easy here, either. The violence, theft, and every-man-for-himself mentality aren’t exactly a dream. I needed the rest of home to prepare me to come back to a demanding life on mission.
Yet as I thought about my comfortable home in quiet Colorado where I saw not one homeless or mentally ill person, no “things that make you go hmmmm” in comparison to watching a transgender prostitute get arrested on the way home and saying, “I think I might know that person”, I knew I was home. Home is simply where God has me at the time. My Hollywood home is one that pulls me out of my comfort and forces me to see things that I don’t know how to deal with and reminds me that the world is horribly broken and in need of a savior – an Answer that we’re all called to share to bind up the brokenness.
I thought about supporters of missionaries who can’t quite grasp local urban missions, and the fact that it’s not so different than anywhere else – here we just speak the same language and share more cultural beliefs and values (though definitely not all – we are still incredibly diverse here).
The need is still the same, the symptoms and approach to peace just play out differently.
If you’ve never thought about missionaries as being local, I challenge you to seek out those in your city and discover what they are doing and how you can support. And if you live in America, I challenge you to look at your city as a mission field – a place desperately in need of Jesus – and to treat it exactly as you would those people you might meet in Africa on a 2-week missions trip.
You don’t have to go more than a few miles to share the gospel with people living in drug-infested slums, or bring hope to a girl rescued from sex-trafficking, or build homes for the impoverished.
And can I just give a shout out to the amazing men and women that I work with through Broken Hearts and other partner ministries in this city who are pouring out their lives for other people on a weekly basis – almost no one has any idea what a huge role they are playing in changing lives in this city and beyond!