By Gayla Parker, BCM/D WMU Executive Director, Missionary for Missions Education and Customization, Missions Innovator Specialist (WMU, SBC)
“The Parable of the Lost Coin” in Luke 15:8-10 came alive to me just a few months after our wedding. Freddy and I were living in seminary housing at Southern Seminary. In case you have ever wondered seminary housing does not come with a self-cleaning oven or self-defrosting refrigerator. So periodically I had to spend my day cleaning the oven and defrosting the refrigerator; otherwise baking became hazardous and the freezer was full of ice instead of food.
One Saturday afternoon after finishing my monthly kitchen chores, I decided to make cookies. Freddy and my seminary neighbors loved the chocolate oatmeal cookies that are cooked on top of the stove. I spooned the cookies out on aluminum foil and all that was left was cleaning the dirty dishes. I removed my wedding rings, placed them on the foil with the cookies, and started washing dishes. Once they were finished, I took a few hours to finish up homework for the weekend. By the time it was all done, the cookies were cool. I removed them from the foil, placed them in a container and waded up the foil and threw it away.
Yes, you guessed it; my rings were still in the foil. It was Sunday morning before I realized they were lost. It was Tuesday afternoon before I remembered where I had put them in our 225 square foot apartment. Freddy and I had looked through the trash hundreds of times but it was not until Tuesday that it occurred to me to ‘un-wad’ the foil. Just like the parable, we called our friends and neighbors and had a celebration party! To this day, making chocolate/oatmeal cookies causes me to shiver.
For those three days, the thought of my lost wedding rings consumed my thoughts. While in class, while at work, while at the library, while at home, when going to bed, when getting up it was all I thought about. Where could they be? How could I have lost something so precious? Would I ever find them? No other ring would ever be the same. When they were found the entire campus knew from my shouts of joy.
My rings were valuable, but only to Freddy and me. Souls, on the other hand, are valuable to God. So much so that “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” The Parable of the Lost Coin ends by saying, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10 NIV)
That alone is reason enough to have missions education. Missions education teaches us from preschool to adulthood how to look for those who are lost. Children to adults learn how to look for needs and meet them, how to share Jesus with others as they do life with those who live around them, how to pray for their community and world, how to give so that missions can continue, and how to deepen their own relationship with Christ.
Missions education can happen through traditional organizations such as Mission Friends, Girls In Action, Children in Action, Acteens, Youth on Mission, Women on Mission and Adults on Mission. But it can also happen in numerous non-traditional ways through book clubs, affinity groups, chat lines, or customized programs for life groups. It is not important how we do it. It is however important that we do it so we can be well equipped to find the “lost coins” and rejoice with the angels when one is found.