Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Created to be a Missionary Woman--Robin Jones Gunn


Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
Galatians 6:4, The Message

I feel quite honored to be here to talk about writing. And maybe just a little shy.

The truth is, when I was growing up I wanted to be you. I wanted to be a missionary. Our church, Calvary Church of Santa Ana in California, had a strong missionary base and I was certain the best way I could serve the Lord would be as a missionary. I longed to go to the remote corners of this beautiful earth and tell an unreached people group about God’s amazing love.

Alas, I was turned down a number of times from a variety of missionary organizations. When Ross and I got married we were both involved in youth ministry and continued to serve in that much needed ministry for the next 22 years. We loved it and I saw that my missionary woman dreams were being fulfilled as I encouraged all the young people in our youth group to go to the uttermost ends of the earth. Some of them did.

But I’ll tell you when the premise of the above verse started to unfold. The girls in our youth group asked me to write stories for them. And as I wrote, for two years, I would read each feeble chapter attempt to them and they would tell me everything I did wrong and everything that needed to be changed. I wrote and re-wrote and cried a little and re-wrote some more. Over those two years I received ten rejection letters for that first Christy Miller book but I saw how the story was changing the hearts of those girls. I decided that if even if the book was never published, interacting with them on creating the story was worth every long hour of writing and rewriting. Those teenage girls were my unreached people group and I was right where I needed to be, doing exactly what I was created to do. And God blessed the work.

That first book in the Christy Miller series was finally published in 1988 and has not gone out of print. I’ve written over 70 books. Thirty-three of them are about Christy and all her Forever Friends. They have been translated into a number of languages. For the past 20 years I have received letters from young hearts all over the world that tell me they gave their life to Christ while reading one of these books. And every time I read one of those letters I cry because God seems to whisper, “See? I put that desire in your heart for a reason. I created you to be a missionary woman. Just not the sort you imagined you’d be. You stayed home and I accomplished my purpose by sending your stories around the world.”

This is the blessing of getting older, isn’t it? We begin to recognize some of the patterns God has been patiently weaving into the fabric of our lives.

So let’s talk about this verse as it’s paraphrased in Galatians 6. In what ways have you made a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given to do? How have you taken the responsibility to “do the creative best you can with your own life” when it comes to this unmistakable gifting and calling to use your words and write your little heart out?

Do tell all, sweet sisters. I’ll be checking in all week and next and adding comments.

13 comments:

Wendy said...

I despaired over why God called me to be a missionary and yet didn't give me a good grasp of the language. That turned me to look at what He did give me and one of those things was writing. I was also able to share that story of finding my way with people back home when we were on deputation and hopefully encouraged them to "find what God has gifted them for". And it is not necessarily what you think.

Sharon said...

Thank you for being Women of the Harvest's guest writer for these next two weeks Robin. I have loved all the Sisterchick books. I am always touched by the bond that the women form and to see how God touches them; all the while they are traveling. It reminded me of visiting my best friend. You should join Women of the Harvest as volunteer retreat staff and that could be the another book!

Lisa said...

Thanks so much for the encouragement, Robin! Ever since I read your first SisterChick book I've thought that you would be great at a WOTH retreat. Your books have helped me to think about the "story" God is writing in my life and the tapestry He is weaving through all of my relationships on the mission field. Loneliness is common amongst women on the field and, like Sharon said, reading one of your books is like sitting down for a visit with a kindred spirit. Thank you again...Blessings galore!!

Robin Gunn said...

Sharon and Lisa, I love the idea of joining in at one of the WOTH retreats! Talk about a true Sisterchicks adventure!

Wendy, how cool that you looked to your skills and found that you could use your words through writing to be about the Kingdom work. I agree. Serving the Lord with the gifts He's given us doesn't always turn out to be what we envision. God is just full of surprises.

Shilo said...

Your creative best: what a freeing concept and one that God has been weaving in my heart this past year.
I love decorating, making my home a refuge and yet, I used to feel guilt about being a missionary woman who was interested in such "petty" things when their were souls perishing.
Seeing through the OT how God is a God who loves beauty and who took great care in fashioning His earthly "homes" (temple, tabernacle) gave me such freedom to recognize that I, being made in His image, MUST use the gifts He has given me, even if they don't seem very missionaryesque. :) Which sounds amazing like taking responsibility for doing my creative best!
Thanks for sharing your story, Robin. It encouraged me and confirmed what God has been teaching me.
Blessings!
Shilo

Jamie Jo said...

I'm off to Amazon to add a few more books to my wish list! Thanks, WOTH, for introducing us to another very kindred spirit.

Shilo, I have often felt the same things you express about wanting to create a home with a few pretties and then feeling very unmissionaryesque. I love that word. I, too, grew to accept that my home needed to be beautiful no matter what fellow missionaries thought about it. Consequently my home can be a refuge for others, too, and I can use my gifts of hospitality with all the "extras" few others allow themselves to purchase. My calling has been to other missionary women more than to the natives my husband serves. That's my story, and it's okay.

KarenKTeachCamb said...

This year I've struggled somewhat with moving from a Christian school where I could freely teach Bible, and where I was serving missionary families, to a secular school, but at the same time I have had a strong sense of peace that God is in this move. I've also learne that sometimes God doesn't take us overseas for what we can give (although He does expect us to use our gifts), but for what He is going to give to us and teach us. Thanks for your encouragement, and it's not the first time I've received it, that you don't have to be a member of an official mission organisation to be a missionary. He called me to be a teacher, and I know that His plans for me are good, so I pray that this year I will be fully available for God to use in whatever way He chooses.

Lynn Pottenger said...

Thank you for your sisterchick books! They have been such a blessing to me in showing how God shows up wherever we are. He gives us little blessings that may not mean much to someone else, but are a real encouragement to us. I found my creativity in ways I never expected. I love to teach and have found ways to make learning fun for my adult students. We put on plays and do things with our hands. I have even gotten them to play some games which they first said were only for children. They learn and have a great time. I have also found that I really enjoy cooking. I am single so I never really needed to cook much in the States. Once I came to the field, I found I really liked it and can use it as a way to reach out and help refresh my fellow missionaries. It is so much fun trying some new recipe or making one up and then sharing it with others. So, God has surprised me in the ways he is using me, but they are good surprises.

Susan said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your post; it prompted me to look back as well. I grew up - 13 years - overseas with missionary parents and always wanted to follow in their footsteps. My husband and I did two shorter mission ventures, one early on for two years, one ten years or so down the road for 1/2 a year. Then we felt God's calling to plant a church in our community in the NW and truly felt we were in the 'missionfield' there. What an awesome (ups & downs) blessing that experience was! And as I look back, I've discovered that through that experience God was preparing us for our next adventure out of country - this time to start some big projects in Africa. The funny thing was, I didn't want to answer the call to Africa at the time (about 4 years ago) though it was clear God was calling my husband this direction. For me it meant leaving behind our eldest just starting college, quitting my nursing career just when my kids were old enough for me to pursue it more fully, and leaving behind close family and friends (my parents had just moved back from years overseas). But the Holy Spirit's call on my heart did not let up and I realized I could wallow in my tears about leaving or joyfully face the future, helping my youngest two do the same. Many hours of my days currently are devoted to homeschooling my girls - something I've done through the years but can certainly put much more of my creative best into as we approach grades 10 and 6 in the next few weeks. Sometimes I despair that I really am not doing that much to make an impact for Christ, even while serving here. Other days God opens up my eyes to see the beauty He's planting in my young daughters' hearts - and the impact I can continue to have there. I've also been privileged to get some writing in - which I never had much time for in the past - and to open my table and home often to others - both aspects of life I delight in. Thanks for reminding us that God is using us creatively in ever so many ways, if we only stop long enough to see it and to keep those communication lines with Him open!

Robin Gunn said...

These are such great insights. Isn't it funny how God creates us a certain way, gifts us uniquely, gives us opportunity to share that gift as He intended and we somehow feel we should apologize for it.

Women are creative. How liberating it is to give ourselves the freedom to creatively put into practice the unique gifts God generously and graciously bestowed on us!

What would the Body look like if we truly received our gifts, talents, skills and abilities as the tools God gave us to build His kingdom? And then -- hold on to your hat -- what if we actually used them without apology and with humble hearts brimming with joy?

Wow!

Vera said...

I do love being a missionary. I love the people around me that give my life real LIFE. I would love to write about it, and have..to friends, but I can't seem to get past telling things as they are, without sounding, cynical, or sarcastically funny. Cause life here IS funny, and sarcastic, and beautiful. Then I struggle iwth the audience..who's going to read this? What frame of reference will a person not living where I am have in where I live, where spitting for a blessing is cool, and using manure and mud for your kitchen walls is totally fine with ALL of us? Any suggestions?

Vera said...

I do love being a missionary. I love the people around me that give my life real LIFE. I would love to write about it, and have..to friends, but I can't seem to get past telling things as they are, without sounding, cynical, or sarcastically funny. Cause life here IS funny, and sarcastic, and beautiful. Then I struggle iwth the audience..who's going to read this? What frame of reference will a person not living where I am have in where I live, where spitting for a blessing is cool, and using manure and mud for your kitchen walls is totally fine with ALL of us? Any suggestions?

Vera said...

I do love being a missionary. I love the people around me that give my life real LIFE. I would love to write about it, and have..to friends, but I can't seem to get past telling things as they are, without sounding, cynical, or sarcastically funny. Cause life here IS funny, and sarcastic, and beautiful. Then I struggle iwth the audience..who's going to read this? What frame of reference will a person not living where I am have in where I live, where spitting for a blessing is cool, and using manure and mud for your kitchen walls is totally fine with ALL of us? Any suggestions?

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