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Missionary work is like farming

“Missionary life is a lot like farming.”

As an inexperienced young volunteer on a short-term trip, I had asked a seasoned missionary, “What does your day-to-day life look like?”

I was feeling a call toward missions, but was unsure how God was leading me.

A few years have passed and now I’m an inexperienced young missionary, learning the accuracy of the analogy for myself.

Missions and farming are seasonal

“It’s not a 9 to 5 job,” the missionary said, “it’s seasonal work. There are times when you’re incredibly busy, like a farmer during planting and harvest. And there are slower times, when not much happens and you shouldn’t feel guilty resting. You prepare for the next season.”

I grew up on a farm, and I remember many workdays that started at dawn and ended after dark. I also remember winter days spent curled up with a book or poring through seed catalogues planning for the year.

Now, in mission work in Japan, I spend December busy with wreath-making and cooking classes; and put in long days frosting red and green cupcakes or rehearsing children’s nativities. I prepare mountains of food for people who come to hear that Jesus Christ is born.

Then I pause to breathe when January comes, and things grow quiet. I catch up on sleep, write prayer updates, and read books. I know Easter will come and the days grow long again—though the cupcakes will be pink, this time, and the message that Jesus Christ is risen.

Uncontrollable work

The Apostle Paul used an agricultural analogy, too. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6-7 ESV).

Farmers and missionaries both understand how little they control. A farmer can’t will a seed to sprout, neither can I force a friend to give their life to Christ. Soil can be prepared, seeds well-placed and watered and, Lord willing, those seeds will sprout and reach toward the Son.

When I’m discouraged, I can remember Christ’s encouragement through a similar word picture. “Look . . . the fields are white for harvest” (John 4:35 ESV).

Missions work is hard, it takes effort, commitment, and persistence. But God causes the growth, and invites us to join in his rich harvest.

Few workers, large world

Farmers have an important job—everyone eats, but only a few grow the food. Jesus saw a world hungry, not for physical food, but for himself. And he called us to be part of this work: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38 ESV).

God used a simple conversation to help me grow in understanding about missionary life. That led me to respond to Jesus’ call. Maybe the words of this missionary—and the words of Jesus—will inspire you, too. Let’s pray together and plant and reap together—the fields are ripe, and the harvest awaits!

By Morgan, an OMF missionary

Will you pray for Japan?

  • Pray that missionaries would remember the seasonal-nature of our work and not be anxious about changes in workflow.

  • Pray that the fields would indeed be ripe for the harvest in Japan, and that God would bring many workers.
  • Pray about how you can be a part of reaching Japanese people with the gospel.

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