“Why do you do what you do?” I have been asked that question many times in my life (mostly by my wife). Many people know what I do, but few understand. When I was younger, no one ever asked that question, but the older I get, the more often I hear it.
I don’t work from “nine-to-five” but from Jan. 1-Dec. 31. And even though I have an office, it’s the last place I want to be. I would rather go into all the world. Even in my “almost” mid-60s, I spend time leading students into foreign countries, teaching them to lay down their adolescence and embrace their adulthood while serving Christ.
While most of my peers are looking forward to retirement, I’m looking forward to Christ’s return. Some people say I’m driven, but I’d prefer to think I have a dream to pursue—a dream to hasten the return of Jesus. I’m not a theologian, but as best I understand the Scriptures, He won’t come back until every nation has been reached. “And this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).
To hasten His return, I have personally taken on the task of reaching the nations. Jesus didn’t give His command to “…go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19a) to a denomination or an institution but to individual believers. I am a believer; therefore, I have been given the direct task for the salvation of the world. To me, it is just that simple. God has blessed me with people who have come alongside me in this journey by praying, giving, encouraging and going with me to proclaim the Gospel among those who have never heard.
Yes, I’ve chosen a life that is far different than most. I remember my days as a 23-year-old youth pastor taking a group of 13-, 14- and 15-year-old students to Mexico. Now I’m in my 60s and still hanging out with students of the same age. As I travel with them, I don’t stay in plush hotels or eat fancy meals. Night after night, I find myself sleeping on the ground or in a hammock enclosed by mosquito netting.
My favorite meal of the week comes when the cook slaps Spam to the side of a black cauldron while she pokes the flames underneath and adds the Pork ’n Beans along with fried plantains. I consider this a meal fit for a king. And I pray that soon and very soon, my Jesus will return.
I think the real question is not “Why do you do what you do?” but “Why do you love doing what you do?” The answer is simple: it brings me great joy. Not the Disneyland kind of joy, but joy that wells from the depths of your soul. When the crowd is gone, it’s just you and Jesus doing the happy dance.
The joy that comes from seeing a young missionary lead that first person to Christ or seeing that same person lead their 100th person to Christ. The joy that comes from watching young teens lay down their adolescence and step into adulthood. The joy that comes from seeing God untangle a life from self-centered to servant-hearted.
The joy that comes from seeing someone replace fear with faith, or watching God change their plans to His. The joys of seeing a truth embraced, or the greater joy of seeing that truth walked out and the truth-walker passing on that truth to someone else. The joy that happens when the faith of their fathers becomes their own.
The joy of watching them pray an earnest prayer for the first time, and having a front row seat to see that prayer answered. The joy of seeing former students embrace Jesus’ ministry in the context of their marriage, vocation and even having children, all for the purpose of enlarging the Kingdom.
I love the fact that the students I have discipled through the years are now living the lifestyle of a missionary. I love it that I am now taking the children and, soon, the grandchildren of students I took to the mission field many years ago. I love it that the work God has called me to do doesn’t span weeks or years, but generations.
People also ask me what I would be doing if I didn’t do what I do now: running a rite of passage journey for students while planting churches across the globe. I have no plan B. While the rest of the world is marking time, I am marking eternity by joining Jesus in His ministry. And until He returns, I have no desire to do anything else.