By Crystal Catalan
“But, you look so young to be a missionary! How old are you anyway?” On more than one occasion, I have had this or a similar discussion, where the person I am speaking with, is so curious about my life [and identity] as a missioner. But usually in these conversations, the individual I am speaking with proceeds to say, “I thought you were studying here in Baguio City!” But, this is not about the fact that I blend in with the neighboring high school and college students, but rather that another comment I hear is, “You don’t look like a missionary!”
After hearing this specific comment on more than four occasions in the nine months that I have been here on mission, I was curious to find out what mentality is shared in society, with regards to the identity of “missionaries.” After being bold enough to follow their question with my question, “What did you expect a missionary to look like?,” common responses I received were, “older,” “a nun or a priest,” and “someone who goes door-to-door, hands out Bibles and tells me how to be saved.”
Given the answers I received, it was clear that I did not fit that “missionary mold” one bit. But that was ok with me because I have learned and witnessed that there is not one universal description of a missionary. And certainly, from my experience, this “missionary mold” should not discourage anyone from doubting his or her call to serve in this capacity.
There are single people, married couples, religious, all cultures represented, working in their respective ministries, churches, and communities, some working domestic in the USA, some working internationally, worldwide. Sure, some missionaries are called to visit communities going door-to-door, others work in hospitals, schools, some carry Bibles with them, some wear specific symbols that represent the mission which they are carrying out – not all missionaries look the same, nor do all missionaries have the same ministry. What missionaries do share, however, is responding to their call with faith, passion, and conviction, and doing so in community with others, through their specific ministry.
I suppose it catches someone off guard when I explain to them the ins and outs of my daily life as a missioner, and every time I am able to challenge their current views on what it means and looks like to serve as a missioner, I see it as an absolute blessing. With the number of volunteer programs available and increase of religious communities sponsoring lay mission programs for those who feel the call to serve, the age, cultures, and ministries of missioners, no doubt, will continue to diversify.
More importantly, by baptism, we have each been called to serve as missionaries of Christ’s love and to spread this profound agape with others. Regardless of our age, sexual orientation, gender, or race, no matter where we are sent on mission, and no matter what others may see, my only hope is that when coming into contact with others, we may reflect God’s image in which we have been created, and that we may serve as we have been called and sent to do.