When I was 18 I went to Sao Paulo, Brazil for a 30 day mission. I loved it from start to finish. I loved everything about it – the language, the food, the smell of the city (really?!) and the people, especially the people and their incredible need for Jesus. I was a sponge soaking up every minute, absorbing every experience into the DNA of my soul, readily receiving every spiritual insight the Holy Spirit was etching into my heart. I was never the same. I returned to the US with my heart hooked on Brazil and foreign missions. I returned two more times, but never to stay.
When I was 34 I had the opportunity to move to Lisbon, Portugal as a missionary. Married and with four young children ages 2, 4, 7 & 9, although Brazil had been my original dream, I was quickly captivated by the vision to evangelize Portugal and the thought of raising our children on this foreign mission field. Like my experience in Brazil, the language, the culture, the food, and the people; especially the people and their incredible need for Jesus, stole my heart. We had committed to 5 years, but I was already prepared to spend the rest of my life there. I was like a fish in water! In less than a year we were back in the US due to unexpected health issues. I have lived in the US ever since.
I’ve shared this window into my life to make a point about rural missions in America. Yes, I had a natural inkling for foreign culture and language. I was and still am an adventurer. But I was at the core struck by the incredible need of the people for Jesus in places where few would venture to bring Him. And it is for this same reason I have become a voice for the mission field of rural America.
I especially want to speak to those disciples of Jesus who are 18 and into their 30s. I believe many of you want to make a difference with your life. In fact, I know so because 4 of our 5 children are in this age group. Social justice is huge these days. Theology sans action is of little interest to you. The hunger pains for meaning have reached an acutely discomforting level among your generation in the church and outside it. Not only in urban America, but rural as well. Just a few weeks ago I asked a young man I know from a nearby rural community what he wanted in life. His reply? To “actually do something fulfilling and meaningful.” He is not a Christian. Yet.
If you are looking for an opportunity to make a significant difference; where the need for Jesus is incredible and few have ventured to bring Him there, then you will want to enter the rural mission field of the US. Approximately 50,000,000 people live in rural America! That’s 1 out of 7 Americans. Broken families, drug & alcohol abuse, empty church buildings and empty lives fill the landscape. Surprisingly to many, a significant number of those lives are young. Just in the 12 counties that make up the southwest quadrant of Oklahoma where R.A.M. began its mission and the majority of the area is rural, 1/3 of the population is 18 years of age or younger. That’s appx. 83,000 young people!
Like my young friend I mentioned earlier, many are looking for a fulfilling and meaningful life in rural America. Only Jesus can truly satisfy such a request. Question is, “Will you bring Jesus into those places where the need is incredible, but few will venture to bring Him?” Rural America is that place. Rural America is the new mission field.