There’s a map on the wall beside my desk that highlights all of the countries and provinces that I have visited, many of them as part of a mission project of some kind. Some days the map serves as a taunting reminder that for now, I’m grounded and likely won’t be leaving the country for quite a while. During the summer and fall of 2020 I completed an internship with an ecumenical Canadian justice and advocacy organization operating in Toronto, the same city that I was living in to attend school. When I began to plan for this internship last winter, I knew that I would be working in Toronto, but what I hadn’t planned for was COVID-19 which left me working almost exclusively from my dorm room. However, this unexpected situation got me thinking about what it means to do mission at home.
Often when we think of mission we think of work being done “over there” in another country or a larger city. While Christ calls us to mission and ministry in those places, Christ also calls us to love and serve our literal neighbours. In Mark 5 after Jesus casts demons out of a man who had been living in the tombs, the man begs to join Jesus in his ministry like the other disciples. However, Jesus “did not let him, but said ‘go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.’ So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed” (Mk. 5:19-20, NIV). Jesus calls this man not to go, but to stay and live a life of mission from home.
Right now, we’re all doing a lot of “staying” and it’s easy to become bored or anxious as we wait for a time when we can start to “go” again and do ministry and mission in the ways that we’re used to. But what if we took this time to consider how to do mission from our homes, in the places where we live, work and play (even if those places are less numerous for now)?
We know that mission isn’t all about going, that’s why we donate money and resources to support ministry projects in Canada and around the world that we will never see with our own eyes. But mission is also about more than donating money and resources, it’s about presence in action and conversation. It’s about acts of service and unconditional kindness for others. Mission is donating our time to service projects, soup kitchens and clothing banks. Mission is offering to pick up groceries for our neighbours or shovel their driveway. If you have the privilege of being able to do any of these things right now, embrace these as God’s call to stay and live a life of mission right where you are.
Of course, COVID-19 has made some of these things difficult too, but it still cannot stop us from living a life of mission. Much of my work during my internship was having conversations about justice issues and developing resources for local churches to have conversations about how to love their neighbours and neighbourhoods. What I learned is that those conversations matter, whether they are in person, on the phone, or online. Talking about injustice and seeking ways to right wrongs, even if it’s just writing to political leaders or educating ourselves so that we can pray more specifically, makes a difference for ourselves and for others. Living a life of mission happens in conversation, and conversation starts at home. Mission happens in conversations about God’s work in our lives, like the man in Mark 5, and it happens in conversations about justice and injustice where we learn about ourselves and our neighbours so that we can love one another more fully. It happens in conversation with books and websites and Scripture, and it happens in conversations with other people as we share the things that we are reading and learning, reflecting on God’s work in the world and how we can participate in it.
Right now, we are being asked to stay put, but that doesn’t mean we are being asked to do nothing. As you spend more time at home, ask God to show you what you can do, who you can serve and who you can talk to as you engage in a life of mission. Whether you can see your neighbour, offer practical support, or simply talk with them on the phone or online, embrace a life of mission through kindness and conversation starting from home.