October 31, 2016

After West Africa: my story of becoming a missionary at home

Written by  Nathanael Thorne

My name is Nathanael Thorne. I am 24 years old and a full-time student and employee. I served on a YES team for a nine-month assignment to Guinea Bissau, West Africa.

In mid-summer of 2013, I returned home and began college full-time, resumed work full-time, and began to contemplate deeply what missional living looks like in my new context at home. I resumed work at Giant Food (where I’d worked for two years prior to leaving for Africa) as an assistant manager. Within a few months of returning to work at Giant, God began to open up doors of opportunity for me to witness for Him.

One night my colleague randomly asked me, “Hey Nate, when I die will I go to heaven?” My response was, “Well, what do you mean? Let’s talk about it.” This two-minute interaction turned into an agreement between us to meet once a week to discuss what it looked like for her to follow Jesus.

Within a few days, another coworker named Darrel asked me, “Nate, I heard you can hear from God. Can you tell me what God thinks about me?” I responded, “Yes, I can hear from God. Can we talk to Him together after work — will you join me in that?”

Darrel and I went in the break room after work, and I asked God to share His heart for Darrel with me. God shared His heart and I spoke it to Darrel. That 10-minute interaction turned into an agreement between me and Darrel to meet once a week to discuss how he can respond daily to God’s call on his heart.

My coworker named Darrel asked me, “Nate, I heard you can hear from God. Can you tell me what God thinks about me?”
These random situations kept arising. Darrel was telling others, and people started to become interested. Meanwhile, I started to confront more people about their religious beliefs and invite them into a walk with Jesus.

Within months, I found myself regularly meeting with a small group of my coworkers in the break room to discuss how we can follow Jesus with our lives. Our meetings were only 15 minutes long, because that was the amount of time we had for break. But it was amazing to see the fruit from those short meetings. We discussed practical steps of obedience to Jesus, and in turn the reign of God was increasingly being established in their hearts. A community of believers was growing.

Through our meetings, I began to see transformation. A cashier named John and I did not get along very well, and since I was his manager, things were all the more difficult between us. One day, John accompanied his close friend Darrel to the meeting. Then he started showing up regularly. Eventually John and I started to have small talk without any hostility. One evening he shared with me that coming to the meetings had softened his heart, making him willing to get to know me better. I told him that he’s my brother in Christ and I have no hostility against him. We have become very good friends since then.

These meetings continued on for some months, until God called me out of Giant and into another field of work. As I reflect on that experience of missional living, I realize that as God was working through me, He also was working in me as well. Below are some nuggets of what He taught me:

  • If you cannot be a missionary at home, you cannot be a missionary in another country. We over-spiritualize missions as a heroic act of God done by people in faraway countries. It’s not. It’s really about actively representing Jesus to others, and you don’t need to be in another country to do that. You can do it at home. 

  • Your home is the best mission field that you will ever enter. Often, our home context is where we have some of the most familiar and authentic relationships. It’s where we know the culture most deeply, and thus it becomes the place we can be most deeply influential. Take advantage of your home field and impact it for Jesus. It’s a lot easier than going somewhere else where you have to learn the language, the culture, how to get around, and so much more before you can even begin to impact others with the name of Jesus. 

  • We all have the ministry of reconciliation. Missions is all about God reconciling humanity to Himself, and we all get to play a part in it. Thus, we all have a mission, we all have a ministry, and that becomes our purpose. So get up and get going!!!

Nathanael (“Nate”) Thorne was part of the 2012–2013 YES team to Guinea-Bissau. From 2014–2015, he served as a missions mentor with Lia Kauffman, mentoring the inner-city Baltimore YES team. He is now a full-time student at Eastern Mennonite University in the STEP program, and later plans to resume studies at University of Maryland University College. He works as full-time security at MGM National Harbor. Nate serves on the hospitality team and as a young adult group leader at Capital Christian Fellowship. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Read an article about Nate’s missions involvement in The Gambia this summer.

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