by rachel rebekah witt
missionary to mexico
I can’t say that I can pinpoint exactly when I felt God calling me to a foreign mission field. Sometime during my high school and college days, there was a desire birthed in me that began as a small interest in other countries and cultures… and then suddenly in a turbo moment, a desire to do missions work hit me. During my time at Bible college, I had the wonderful opportunity to go spend time with my great-grandmother as she was coming to the end of her life on earth. There was a binder in her living room that held the book that had recently been completed about her life as a missionary, but it had not been published yet. As I stayed in her house with her, I sat and read for hours about her adventures of traveling all over the world with her husband and eleven children. It all seemed romantic and exciting, and I found myself wanting to do something that drastic for God. I began pouring myself into reading about the lives of missionaries; what they sacrificed, and how they changed nations.
I started taking short-term missions trips across the border into Mexico with church groups, but when I was 22 years old, I was suddenly offered the opportunity to serve on my own for 2 months in China. This was it! I knew the exciting journey of foreign missions was finally beginning for me! I had never had a desire to go to China before, but my upcoming trip and the mission I would have there, unexpectedly began to dominate my thoughts every second of every day. I watched the movie, “The Inn of Sixth Happiness”, the story of Gladys Aylward, a missionary to China in the early 1900’s, over and over and over. I was looking at missions as a romantic undertaking, and I couldn’t wait for my own adventure to begin!
And then, I arrived in China… after 20 hours of flying, a few days in Hong Kong, and 20 hours crossing China by train, the reality of my situation hit me. The romance of it all disappeared. I realized I was so far away from home! I cried, and I cried some more. Everything was so different, and although I loved learning about the culture, living with the orphans, and going to teach English, I felt like a failure because it was all so hard on me emotionally. The difficulty took me by surprise. I certainly hadn’t expected it to be so hard, and I hadn’t expected to feel so out of my element. The reality was that I was doing missions, but I didn’t “feel” like I was doing anything grand. I had pictured missionaries living everyday with great excitement, feeling like they were changing the world, but to me, this just felt like real life- with the added difficulties of not knowing the language or being familiar with the culture.
My dad knew I was struggling and in order to encourage me, sent me some transcripts of letters my great-grandfather had written years earlier while traveling to China by ship. I already knew some of the stories of his missionary adventures, but I was shocked to discover that he had cried, too! He confessed to having such a hard time that he found himself not even wanting to go anymore! He wrote that his wife (my great-grandmother) crawled up into his bed with him on the ship just to comfort him. It got me thinking… and then I studied some passages about the apostle Paul in the Bible. As I read about the hard time he had and the struggles he had to go through, the romantic idea that I had carried with me to China of what it would be like to be a missionary crumbled down. And it was the best thing that could have happened to me! Out of my comfort zone and out of necessity, God became more real to me than ever before. The desire to have a close relationship with Him became greater than the desire to live out my romantic ideas of an exciting missionary life. During my time in China, I learned invaluable truths about my relationship with God that still affect my life to this day. From that point in my life, I began to say yes to God simply out of my love for Him, not because I wanted what I had imagined to be a romantic and exciting missionary life. Saying yes to God became a natural response, in the big decisions as well as in the small, everyday decisions.
Shortly after I returned home from China, a missionary our church had supported for over 40 years visited. She was another one of the many missionaries that I admired so much. She invited me to come help her with her work in Durango, Mexico. I had just turned 23 and was still single. I felt like this was the next step for me, so I told my dad without hesitation, “I think this is what I’m supposed to do next.” He wasn’t very surprised, but at the same time asked me to keep my trip to two months because he was afraid that if I stayed longer, I might get emotionally involved with someone there. He was very serious, but I kind of laughed it off, thinking it was very unlikely. I agreed to the plan, and before I knew it, I was on a plane headed to Mexico.
I was so excited for this next adventure… but guess what happened? I cried again! I was so excited to be there, but my emotions got the best of me. I had thought that I would be better prepared for this trip after my experience in China, but it was so hard, all over again. It took some time, but I stuck it out, and finally after the first few weeks, I felt I was settling in. I remember telling my dad over the phone, “This is the first place I can see myself actually living in.” I can’t deny that part of that feeling came from the fact that I was already forming a close friendship with the missionary’s grandson, and it was all messing with the fact that I now knew that missionary life wasn’t all about romance and adventure! But while I was really loving the country and culture of Mexico, I had thoughts like, why Mexico? It didn’t sound as exciting to me, or as romantic, as other, far-off countries. But as I spent more time in Mexico and more time with the grandson, I recognized that it was God who was speaking to my heart about the future.
Things weren’t playing out as I had imagined them in my head. Missions lost its romanticism, and reality settled in, but I saw more and more how God would just impress something to me, and I had the choice to say “yes” or “no”. I began to realize that no person’s call or life in Christ is more exciting or impressive than the other. It is simply about being willing, paying attention, saying yes, and being faithful. And I was finally ready to give up my romantic perceptions of the missionary life, and say yes to God in every moment of daily life.
to be continued…
Rachel Rebekah Witt is a missionary in Durango, Mexico alongside her husband Jerry, and their four children. Raised in the city of Houston, she never knew her future would be living in a ranch town in Mexico. Her favorite food is breakfast and a cup of coffee makes everything more enjoyable. She loves traveling with her family, but is equally fulfilled in the daily life of being a homemaker, cooking for her husband, doing homeschool with her kids, and serving in many ways in the church they pastor. Their ministry in Durango and in the mountains with the indigenous tribes is fueled by two things: their heart to serve those who have been forgotten by society or the church, and their love for teaching young ministers who are serving in the kingdom.
You can find more information about Rachel’s ministry on Facebook and Instagram at: Witt Missions