“The missionary activity of the church will recognize, welcome, and support the presence of the Spirit in all fields of human endeavor–in the sciences as well as the arts, in politics as well as religion– where life and peace are enhanced and death and destruction are combated.”—– Daniel L. Migliore
I love science and I have friends who love science. One friend loves it so much, she is a scientist. She spends hours looking at germs, analyzing them, and learning how they work. Her ultimate goal is to help people live. Like many scientists before her, she may never know the value of her work. My children adore her. They’ve even seen some of the germs that may live inside them and sometimes make them sick: streptococcus and e. coli. One of our best afternoons was spent in her laboratory. One child donned rubber gloves and eye goggles with the sense of importance they should have. The exuberance was palpable and increasingly more audible with each new specimen magnified by the microscope in their hands. The other pretended to write the periodic table on a white board and none of it was legible. I have no idea who they will be when they grow up, but they’ve met a female scientist and they think she is a superhero. Even though that time in the lab is a couple of years back now, they haven’t forgotten and she’s even more of a hero now than before. They’ve recently learned who Jonas Salk is through an episode of Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum. Representation matters. We all know this, but seeing it in action is powerful. After the episode, they said she was like Salk. They remembered she was working with germs, trying to learn how to help people survive big germs, and they made the connection that she was a modern version of Salk. If you ever wonder about the merit of what you’re doing, think about how a kid sees you. Her work, in the eyes of my children, is monumental. It’s easy to ignore the value and worth of science. We benefit from it daily, often in ways we aren’t even aware of. Yet, we’re very critical of experts like my friend. Nearly all people are sometimes wary of science, but especially Christians. Not all Christians are, but many are. Those many sometimes have the loudest voices and the furthest reach. When your evangelical focus is on saving lives figuratively, it is easy to look at the literal work of saving lives and view it as less valuable, especially work behind the scenes. We tend to speak highly of doctors and nurses, because of their direct impact on the humans in their care, but we overlook those doing the work behind the scenes. Those doctors and nurses know about what germs can do because of scientists like my friend. We’re diminishing the power of God when we look at missionary work only as that work done with the intent to share the news of Jesus. Missionary work is everywhere, because the Spirit is everywhere. She is doing missionary work. She is waking up, doing work she loves, and trusting that good will come from her efforts. We may never know the results of her endeavors as a scientist, but I do know without doubt that she has inspired children. She let little children come to her, badger her with questions, and smudge her equipment. Caring for others, no matter where and how, is what Christians are called to do by Jesus himself. Please don’t dismiss the magnitude of her faith. It is arguably harder to live faithfully when Christians around you believe that your career choice is not one bringing souls to Christ. Christians aren’t called to bring souls to Christ first. We continually miss this. The Greatest Command does not dictate what missionary work should look like, only that missionary work should exist. Love God. Love others as yourself. My friend is doing this every day, and she could be the reason that someday you have the care you need. Whether it is through her work directly or the work of young minds she is encouraging, good has, is, and will come through her labor. Our scientist superhero friend wears robes in the form of a lab coat and baptizes germs in various liquid solutions. Her work is not sacred in the traditional, religious understanding, but it is no less holy.