I've been thinking about the phenomenon of sending out missionaries. As a Christian, I've come to believe that being a missionary is something that everyone is called to do; we're to be missionaries in whatever setting we find ourselves in - at the mall, in the grocery store, at the park, at home, and yes, in foreign countries.
The funny thing to me is what happens when we "send out" missionaries from our home congregations (from our local church) to ... somewhere else. I believe that this is something God encourages, but think about it; what happens when every local church starts to send out missionaries?
You start getting exchanges. For example, I started in Rochester, NY, America. But now I'm living in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. So I moved half-way around the world. Fair enough. But now, what happens if people from Melbourne (or Sydney, which is actually what prompted this little ramble) decide to be missionaries to America? I mean, America needs it just like any other nation, and I've heard of missionaries from Africa coming into the States to preach the gospel.
But seriously ... what's the purpose of essentially exchanging missionaries? Wouldn't it make more sense to just keep our own people within our own borders so they don't have to go learn a new language and culture and all that, so they can minister to their own people?
I think there is a reason. God doesn't seem to do things without reasons, and if He told some of us to go from place to place, I think there must be a reason. Here's my thought, and then I'll wait to see what we get from others: the exchange is necessary.
The cultural exchange helps us to see that the world is bigger than ourselves. It helps us to see that we are not alone, and it helps us to learn that God lives and works in all places. God is not static, He's very much dynamic and alive and busy! By working through culture shock and by learning new languages, we grow more humble. We learn that God works in all parts of the world, even when it looks like He's forgotten about a place (think Rwanda or India on this one).