"Don’t you feel bad about wasting your skills by being a missionary in Guatemala?"
That is a question asked of me at a Bible study group last week after I shared about our ministry teaching, training and discipling orphaned and impoverished children in Guatemala and explained how I came to be a missionary here.
I imagine it’s something everyone asks themselves at one time or another during their life. It’s Something that I have contemplated many times in my 12 years of mission work. I suppose the answer would lie in how we define wasting our abilities vs. properly using them.
Christ himself addressed the issue in Matthew 27. We call it the parable of the talents. A Master entrusts his servants with talents, upon returning from a long journey he finds that two of them have used their talents wisely and reaped a good return, while the other buried his talent. the “good and faithful” servants are rewarded and invited to share in their masters joy while the unfaithful servant is rebuked for his failure, his talent taken away and given to a faithful servant.
James 1:17 tells us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights”.
So not only does the Bible tell us that our gifts and talents come to us from our heavenly father, but Jesus makes it clear that he wants us to use our abilities in a befitting manner. If we look at 1 Corinthians 10:31, we are reminded that “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”. This clearly tells us that even our work can become of form of worship if it is done to honor God. Yet it is how we live that out that is the challenge. I know it has been was for me.
As a child growing up, I was fascinated by technology. As a young teenager when computers were starting to proliferate. I wanted nothing more than to work in the tech world. I have always been gifted along those lines, and I enjoyed it. I remember being oh so happy when I got a job as a sys-admin and thinking to myself that I could do that for the rest of my life.
Yet as some point, God called me to a life of full time service in Guatemala. To a life, that for many years, didn’t seem to use my “talent” at all. There were personal reasons in my life that played into this, in some ways I had let my love of technology take a higher place in my life then my love for God. Living in a less developed county that was, at the time, many years behind the US, made it difficult for me to use the gift that God had given me.
Yet I applied myself to job I had in front of me, teaching, training and caring for children in the orphanages where I worked. and, with time, things have come full circle and I have had the opportunity to use my gifts in a ways that have a much more lasting effect.
One way that is come about is through setting up and running computer training centers in orphanages and schools all over the country. The same tech skills that I would have used to be a network-admin, have instead been used to give hundreds of children the chance to learn computer skills and discover the benefits that technology can offer them.
I might have been a good computer tech, but I never would have been Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, my abilities would have made me a good living and my boss a lot of money. Yet instead my skills have been used to improve people’s lives and open them to a future that they might never have seen. And, most importantly, share with them the knowledge of a God who loves and cares for them in a truly amazing way.
Last week I attended the graduation ceremony at the Precious Moments School & Orphanage where we work. Seeing the students graduating because of the incredible work done by the teachers we sponsor, was amazing. But it was when I congratulated Sandra Tax, the 1st grade teacher, who was one of my first students in an orphanage 10 years ago, that the point was truly driven home for me.
Seeing how, because I had been faithful to pour into her life, that now she was able to pour into the lives of these children, in a much greater way than I ever could, is a true validation of how I have chose to invest not just my talents, but my life.
I have also been blessed lately to make use of my tech skills to create apps for churches, missionaries, pastors and orphanages. These tools are serving to enable them to be more effective and fruitful in the work they do. Once again my talents are multiplied by investing them in serving others.
I guess at the end of the day, it all comes down to what criteria we use to judge what is the best use of our abilities.
I have found that the best use of my gifts, talents and abilities is to make use of them in a giving manner which demonstrates that living a sacrificial life, grounded in the assurance that serving others magnifies Christ’s bounteousness, is far more satisfying then a life lived in service to myself.