M is for Missionary
“Ladies, ladies. Please settle down and find your seats. We are about to begin.” Using her hands, Hannah Saunders shushed the crowd of women. “Who is ready to begin digging into God’s Word? I know I am. We have a great weekend planned but first let us get to know each other. I want you to locate someone you don’t know and find your similarities by asking a few questions. Look to the screen above me if you need suggestions. Go.”
Lisa Sparrow glanced at the list provided and patiently looked around for a newbie she could encourage. She had been coming to these retreats since moving to China eight years ago and had been blessed every time. Finally spotting a timid woman in the corner she approached her and boldly asked the first question on the list. “Do you enjoy cooking?”
A shocked Olivia White answered, “No, I don’t. Do you?”
“Not really. My favorite phrase of my husband’s is ‘Honey, let’s go out tonight.’ It always makes me feel special. Managing a household is hard work! Oh, by the way I’m Lisa Sparrow.”
Shaking the extended hand Olivia smiled, “Olivia White, nice to meet you. I guess the next question is ‘How long have you been married and how many children?’”
“Ten years and two children. What about you Olivia?”
“Six months, no children. We just arrived here so that answers question three.”
Not missing a beat Lisa continued, “We have been doing M work eight years and I have to say that this particular resort is my favorite place to visit. I always come away from these weekends refreshed. Have you had much time to travel yet?”
Confused, Olivia asked, “Excuse me Lisa, but what is M work?”
“M work is our term for what we do here. It is short for missionary work,” Lisa answered matter-of-factly.
”Oh, I see. That makes sense. To answer your question we have not had time to travel yet but we plan a trip to Chengdu soon to visit the U.S. Consulate.”
“So, you are American then,” Lisa concluded.
“Yes, from Arkansas. What about you? Where are you from? I hear an accent but I don’t do well with placing them yet,” Olivia lowered her eyes and whispered.
“The U.K. just outside of London.” Gingerly placing her hand on Olivia’s arm Lisa encouraged, “And don’t be ashamed of that Olivia. You will learn quickly about other cultures when you meet enough people.”
“I hope you are right,” Olivia nearly shouted over the timer signaling the end of the icebreaker.
“Lisa, do you want to introduce us to your new friend?” Hannah the M.C. asked. “Please stand up both of you.”
Avoiding eye contact an embarrassed Olivia held tightly onto the only person she knew in the room.
“This is Olivia White from Arkansas, United States. She is newly married and newly arrived in China. First time doing M work. Her answer for love and grace was lovely. I hope she can share it if asked. Ladies please let us give a warm welcome to Olivia.”
Quieting the applause Hannah first thanked Lisa before turning to Olivia, tenderly asking, “And what have you learned about love and grace in your walk with God so far?”
Gaining confidence Olivia asserted, “Love is boundless and Grace is immeasurable. But, neither exists without the other. Just like George Bailey in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ I shudder to think what my life would be like without either one of God’s gifts. If you haven’t watched the classic American film I highly recommend it.”
From the back of the room a loud “Amen to that one,” came from an African-American sister, Sheila, who stood up and continued, “I love that movie, watch it every Christmas. But I love that comparison even more. It makes you think. Life without God’s love and grace? No thank you!” Sheila shook her head. “Thanks for sharing Olivia and I know that we all look forward to getting to know our new American sister serving HIM in China! Can I get another Amen?”
A unified chorus of “Amen” resounded in the room and reverberated off the walls changing forever the life of timid Olivia White embarking on a new adventure.