A Missionary in Your Backyard

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 I love international mission trips. I enjoy traveling to another country, meeting people different from me, learning a new culture, and meeting a community’s needs—while at the same time fulfilling Jesus’ mandate to be His witness “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). 

            I have been leading international mission trips for many years, and have witnessed first-hand how a mission trip not only impacts those being served but also transforms the participants’ lives. Indeed, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). 

However, as rewarding and as wonderful international mission trips are, they cannot fulfill Jesus’ mandate by themselves. Jesus sent the disciples to the “ends of the earth,” but He also sent them into “Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.” In other words, Jesus sent his disciples to be missionaries in their own cities–to share their faith with their neighbors and families! 

An international mission trip can be an amazing experience, but when we return home, we must remember that Jesus wants us to serve in our local community too.

            The ways in which we serve overseas can be repurposed and replicated in our church’s backyard. There are many relevant ways to serve our community, our neighborhood, and our families. 

            Let’s be practical: There are fifty-two weeks in the year. If an international mission trip takes up two weeks, what are we doing during the remaining fifty weeks? Are we going to just wait an entire year to be of service? There is suffering and need everywhere,not just in developing countries. It is our duty to serve whereverand whenever there is a need. 

            Not “all will not be called to go to foreign missions, but you may be missionaries at home, in your own families and in your neighborhoods.”[1]We don’t have to travel all over the globe to help someone in need; we can do it right in our backyard. Our desire to serve God cannot be limited to overseas trips. “The circle of family and neighborhood duties is the very first field of effort for those who would work for the uplifting of their fellow men.”[2]

            A few years ago, my family and I began My City My Passion[3], a project that organizes and promotes local mission trips, while empowering youth. Besides providing local opportunities to serve, we empower and train the participants in leadership skills, compassion ministry, evangelism, discipleship, and spiritual and character development. Through simple acts of compassion and service these young people touch hearts and are blessed with the spirit of servanthood. The event spans ten days, during which time they stay together at a local church, learn from experienced mentors, and serve the community. 

For the last five years participants have worked on dozens of projects. They have done free face painting for children, cleaned roads and parks, provided activities in community parks, fed the homeless, distributed evnagelistic literature, talked to neighbors about church activities, and partnered with local organizations.

            This year My City My Passion was hosted by Ellicott City Church in Maryland, where I serve as lead pastor. We had over fifty participants, representing seven states. They knocked on doors and invited people to have Bible studies, cleaned up the streets of Baltimore, partnered with a local organization to clean a community garden, were trained in leadership and discipleship, and every day they heard uplifting messages that helped them grow closer in their relationship with Christ. 

Yes, local mission trips are possible and needed. “Every true disciple is born into the kingdom of God as a missionary.”[4]We are called to be missionaries not because we travel to another country, and not because a particular geographic location calls us to be missionaries there. In God’s eyes we are missionaries because we serve Him wherever we are, where He needs us—even if it is our own backyard!


Pastor Paulo Macena, is the Lead Pastor of Ellicott City SDA Church in the Chesapeake Conference.

[1]Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times,Sept. 4, 1879. 

[2]Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing,351. 

[3]To learn more visit mycitymypassion.com.

[4]Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages, 195