by Timothy Ko
I remember the first time God put missions in my heart…it was my Junior year of High School, I was sitting in Chapel and It was during a Missions Conference where Dr. David Thompson came to speak and I remember his wife was speaking to all the youth about their lives in missions. It was at that moment where I first became interested in using my career for missions. I remember as my Dad was driving me home, I was telling him about how interesting I thought their lives were and at the end, I said “I think I might be interested in that.” My Dad was supportive of me but as I look back upon that time, I wonder why I was so hesitant to say that I was interested in long term missions. After all, my parents never dissuaded me from missions.
At the Urbana student missions conference, one of the seminars I went to was titled “Asian Americans and the Challenge of Medical Missions.” It seemed very interesting since I am Asian American and I am passionate about medical missions. I got to the seminar a little early and as I was sitting there to start, I began to think, wait, this seminar is probably about how to talk to your parents and convince them to let you go do medical missions. I was thinking, this is a waste of time since my parents are already supportive of me pursuing missions. In fact, I pulled out my phone and frantically scrolled through the hundreds of other seminars that were going on at the same time. But ultimately, I decided to stay, mainly because it already started and I was sitting in the very first row. The speaker started off the seminar with a statement saying that many Asian Americans are interested in missions, but very few end up as long term missionaries. He said that it is our Asian American culture that prevents many from committing to long term missions. He listed three what he called “Not so subtle Asian traits”…the first was that Asian Americans are financially well off, the second is that Asian Americans are well educated, and the third is that Asian Americans value family. The speaker then presented a bunch of evidence supporting those statements. Now those are not necessarily bad things, but the speaker then asked, “Are Asian Americans excessively focused on financial attainment?” “Are Asian Americans excessively focused on academic achievement?” “Are Asian Americans excessively focused on family?” As he was explaining the downsides, I really began to realize that these were one of the biggest reasons why I have always hesitated in wanting to do long term missions. Growing up as an Asian American, I think just culturally I was instilled the importance of working hard in school, in hopes of obtaining a successful career and thus being able to raise a family. I had this idealized future comforts…a stable job, a home in a nice neighborhood, or for us Asians, a home in a good school district, raising up a loving family. Throughout my first two and a half years of college I said, “Let’s see where I am at in life and then I will decide whether long term missions is for me.” But as God was speaking to me throughout Urbana, I realized that the root of that statement really was, “God, bless me with what I want, and then I will pursue missions. Bless me with a degree from a prestigious school, bless me with a high paying job, bless me with a spouse and kids, bless me with that comfortable life that I have always wanted, then I will go do missions.”
But that is not how God has called us to live. He has called us to be, what the speaker at the seminar called, Kingdom seekers. God reminded me of the verse from Matthew 6 where Jesus is telling us not to worry because God even takes care of the birds in the sky and the grass of the field. In the past I would read that verse when I was stressed out so that I would be comforted by the assurance of God’s blessings. But I always missed out on what was the most important message in that passage. It comes from verse 33 where it says “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Yes, God does bless His children, but our primary focus should not be to obtain His blessings. But rather, we are called to a life that is much richer, much more worthwhile than the earthly blessings we receive. We are called to seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness with all our hearts in whatever way that may look like for each of us.