Written by Rachel Ferguson

After four years serving God as a missionary in Brazil, a well-meaning acquaintance asked me, “So how many people have you saved so far?” Completely unprepared for the question, I mumbled, “Zero” to both of our embarrassment. Laying on my bed that night, of course, I came up with many, many other answers. 

We all know that I, Rachel Ferguson, can save no one. It is just not in my skill set. God is the only one in the soul-saving business. But as a Christian, and especially as a missionary, sometimes the pressure and unspoken expectations make me forget this. 

“In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:16 

We are to share Jesus by our lives, by what we do and say. We are to be like lights: they shine. It is what they ARE. When I first went to Brazil, I didn’t speak any Portuguese, so I worked really hard on shining. I even practiced in front of the mirror. Smiling, nodding, and giving hugs was about all I could do, but I wanted to do it well. 

After over a decade of serving in Brazil, I still haven’t “saved” anyone. I have shared and shared and smiled and shined my biggest and brightest, but no good. I often forget the second half of the verse: “That everyone will praise your Heavenly Father.” 

It doesn’t say “that they may be saved.” It doesn’t say “that you will feel successful.” It doesn’t even say “That everyone will praise your Heavenly Father in front of you.” Most of my shining won’t get a response to me. Because that isn’t the point. The point is whatever God wants to do in that person’s life, through seeing me being me: God’s child, walking with Him.

So what does shining look like, practically? They say Moses’ face shown so bright after he was with God that they made him put a veil on (Exodus 34:29). It is living life with God. It isn’t being perfect, and it certainly isn’t practicing your smile in the mirror. It isn’t forcing something or planning a list of good works. It is the life that happens when you make up your mind that nothing is going to be between you and God, ever. That whatever it takes—you and God are going to meet up in the morning, and are going to live life together all day, every day. 

I went to a wedding last year, and at the reception, there was music. No one was dancing, but there was space to, and so I pulled my husband’s hand and we danced. I remembered when I got married. I remembered how much I loved him. And I am not a good dancer, but my heart was full and I sat down breathless. One of my old students came up and said, “When I grow up, I want to be like you. I want to be like that.” 

I had shone like a light. They saw something they wanted in me: someone lost in love and happiness. I like to think that is what being a missionary is, living my life with Jesus and people seeing something they want in me. Maybe they will ask me about it. Maybe they won’t. But they praise my Heavenly Father.