I'm intending on being a student missionary (hereafter "SM") next school year.
This is not an uncommon question. Another is "Where?" which I will address in a minute. But, starting with the "Why?", I don't have a great, succinct answer. Many things aren't all that simple. Human motivation is one of them. I'll attempt nonetheless, but this is merely partial reflections, developing rather than complete.
"But more than anything else, put God's work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well." ~ Matthew 6:33 CEV
What does that look like?
The last three years I have been spending the summers at an internship developing a UAV vision landing system, throughout other portions of the years working on personal coding projects such as image processing bubble-form grading software, and now making an autonomous glider soar like a bird using machine learning. It's not that I haven't been doing "good" things by some metric. These are enjoyable, interesting, and potentially useful projects. But, I will have an eternity to do good things. What is the best use of my time right now?
I tend to view myself as having worth if I accomplish enough, do enough good things -- if I do well in classes, write enough useful software, contribute enough to the world. Yet I view the purpose in life stemming more from interactions and relationships with people, contradicting my innate (and wrong) sense of where worth comes from.
I'm in college, so I meet people one year and they're gone the next. I'm still grateful that they were in my life even if only briefly. Building friendships, having discussions that change the way we think -- I'm not going to forget these people. I'll remember how they treated me, how they valued me, what we said to each other. I've grown because of my relationships with them, and I'd like to think they have too.
It's about the people, not about productivity or accomplishments, not the list of software I've written. I want to be there for those who are in need physically, spiritually, socially. Maybe I can be there for kids, teaching math, science, physics, computers. Maybe I can be there for those who don't have some technical ability, implementing or setting up technology. Naturally it's easier to keep to myself, not bothering other people. But, I don't think I'm here to keep to myself.
As an SM, I'd like to be a student of living unselfishly, learn how to connect with people and help them, which I'd like to continue the rest of my life, wherever I go. Being an SM will provide an opportunity to work in an area where I will be helping people in a less abstract way. This next year, I would like to live a life more directly for others and for God.
As a church, we are called to go out into the world and make disciples of every nation. My part in that could be remaining in the United States. It could be developing technology, advancing the field of Computer Science, being a part of engineers' lives. People everywhere need to be appreciated and accepted, valued and loved. Yet, my life has worked out such that I have this opportunity to go elsewhere next year. Over the past year I have become convinced that I should go as an SM. I believe I have a great opportunity here, an open door. Let's see what happens.
I'm going to teach high school math in Yap. Or, at least that's what I've signed up for. I'll be teaching more than just math, but how the other classes will be divided among teachers will be determined upon arrival. I hear the principal left and there is a temporary principal. I don't know what will happen.
Really, the plan is to serve God, and that's about it. I can't be decided upon teaching math, going to Yap, or much of anything. It's not about me and what I think I want to do. This is to be a life focused on God, wherever and whatever I end up doing.