David Ellingson


During my first semester of seminary in California, our seminary chapel had a number of speakers teach on missions. It was on November 7th, 2013 that Nathan Wells, a missionary in Cambodia spoke to the students and said these memorable words that impacted my own thinking:

Most guys, when I talk to them and beg them, ‘Please come to Cambodia, consider world missions, there’s so many people that need the Gospel,’ and they say, ‘Oh, you know, I’m not called to that.’ I’m in one hundred percent agreement that if you’re not called to go into overseas missions, you should not go. I agree, but I have a question for you if that’s what you say: ‘When were you called to America?’ Most of you sitting here this morning, you believe that God has called you into ministry, but why do you feel so strong a pull to stay here? Why is America, or your home country your default? If you’re going to have a default, why not somewhere else where the gospel is not proclaimed? We like to complicate the call to overseas missions, I believe. It’s not so much because it’s really complicated, but I think when it comes down to it, we don’t want to go. Most of us just don’t want to go. [….] It was true for me, I did not want to be a missionary. That was the farthest thing from my mind. I had my plans, my ideas about what my life should look like. [….] But deep down, I just didn’t want to be a missionary. God had to work hard in my life. [….] I can still remember, it was about 10 years ago now, sitting in my car knowing that I couldn’t run any more. I couldn’t run… just feeling the great loss, because I love America. Feeling the loss of family because I wouldn’t be able to be near my family – my nieces, my nephews – I love them. And yet at the same time feeling this great burden lifted from my soul because I was running from God’s call on my life.

Nathan’s words caused me to ask myself: “Why is America my default? Why do I assume that my ministry calling is to America? Why would I not pursue overseas missions as my first priority until God changes my course? When the needs are so much greater in other countries, why do I automatically plan to stay in America?”

I knew that the spiritual needs were great in America. I knew that many American churches were weak, that many Christians lacked spiritual discernment, and that many people did not know Christ in this land. But, I also knew that true biblical teaching was readily available, that solid churches were often within driving distance, that if someone wanted biblical truth in America, that they could readily find it through a Gospel-teaching church, or through solid resources and sermons on the internet, or through Christian bookstores, or through many other avenues. In many other countries, however, if someone wanted biblical truth, they would likely not be able to find it. There would be few solid biblical churches, few solid biblical resources (if any) translated into their language, and a great lack of theologically trained pastors. All of this transformed my openness to go into overseas missions into a compelling desire for overseas missions.

(Excerpted from Ellingson website.)

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