What do a penny, hands and feet, a GOAT, and 3As have in common? They are all ways to talk about missionaries, of course.

What's a Missionary?






Hands & Feet

If you were to ask your friends what a missionary is, they may say, “It’s a person who travels around the world, telling people about God.” Ask an adult the same question, and you might get a different answer, “A person who goes out and tells the Good News.” Who’s right? They can’t both be right, can they? Let’s learn more about missionaries by exploring the 3 A’s of missionaries—Adventure, Assignment, and Area.


When many people hear the word “missionary,” they immediately think of adventure. This is what many people picture when they think of missionaries, but only a few missionaries live like this today.

Some of the first missionaries traveled to far away places and fought deadly diseases and dangerous animals. They lived in villages with people who didn’t wear many clothes. Some even ate slimy food that looked back at them.

The life of a missionary is an adventure, but it’s not always like you see in the movies. Doing whatever God asks you to do is an exciting adventure. What could be more exciting than telling people who have never heard about Jesus that God loves them too?


What do you want to be when you grow up? Do you think God might want you to be a missionary? Missionaries have many different jobs or assignments. When adults first meet a new person, they like to ask each other what job they do. People like to ask missionaries what they do also. 

Some missionaries are doctors, nurses, and dentists who work in a hospital or medical clinic. Other missionaries are teachers at a missionary children’s school, or they teach at a special advanced school for future pastors and Christian workers called a seminary.

Many missionaries are pastors. They preach God’s Word and often help start new churches in areas where there are none.


Doctors, nurses, teachers, and preachers are the jobs people think most often for missionaries, but missionaries can have other jobs too. There is so much work that needs to be done.

Every missionary assignment is important: churches need to be built, workers need to be paid, meals need to be fixed, letters need to be written, and that’s just a few of the many assignments that need to be done. God can use anyone who is willing to do whatever He asks them to do and that includes, engineers, accountants, construction workers, farmers, . . . .


Another way to describe a missionary is to think about the area or the place where they are telling people about Jesus.

Traditionally, a missionary is a person who crosses cultures to share God’s love. What does it mean to cross cultures?

In the past, to cross cultures, a person had to leave their home country and live in another country. They would learn how to live like the people in the country where they lived. They even had to learn how to speak a different language so that one day they would have the chance to tell their new friends about the love of Jesus. Many missionaries still do this today.

But now, you can often cross cultures by walking across the street. You may even have friends who are from other countries. God can use you to tell them about Jesus.

In Mark 16:15, Jesus told his followers (and that includes us too), “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.”

So, where is a missionary to tell people about Jesus? The answer is simple—everywhere! God can use you wherever you live. He wants us to always be ready to tell people about him, wherever we go. That means we need to tell people about Jesus both across the street and around the world. Everyone needs to hear the Good News!


Now that you have a better idea of the 3 A’s of missionaries, let’s make it even easier for you to remember. Sometimes a picture is easier to remember than a long definition. It’s like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are three pictures you can use to quickly remember what a missionary is—a penny, a goat, or hands and feet.

Most people carry a penny with them. Pennies are easy to find, and they are a great way to explain to someone what a missionary is. The answer is written on an American penny. Do you see it? No, it’s not the words “In God We Trust,” although that is important, too-----

It’s right there—see it?  No, it’s not the words in Latin; it’s “One Cent.” A missionary is “one sent” by God to share His love with others. That’s easy to remember, isn’t it? A missionary is One Sent. Just keep a penny in your pocket, and you’ll always be ready to tell others what a missionary is.


Another picture of a missionary is a GOAT. No, not an old, billy goat. And not a grouchy person you might call a goat, either. Think about the four letters, that spell the word goat. If you can remember those four letters you’ll have another easy way to describe a missionary.

The letters stand for Go Out And Tell. The goat reminds us of the important job that God wants us to do. He doesn’t want us to stand still but to get moving. We are not to keep silent but to share the Good News with others.


In Matthew 25, Jesus told the people a short story about a king. One day the king announced to his people, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me…”

But the people were confused. They didn’t remember helping their king. They asked him, “Lord, when did we do these things?” The king told them that when they helped others, it was like they were helping him. It is from this story that we get our last picture of a missionary, a pair of hands and feet.

Many times before a missionary can tell people about Jesus, he needs to get his hands dirty by helping the people with some of their big problems. The problems could be unclean drinking water, disease, or even needing help to grow food.

If a missionary is not helpful, the people may begin to think that a missionary does not really love them and that God doesn’t care about them either.

The picture of the hands reminds us we have an important job to do.  The feet remind us that we need to be ready to go wherever God sends us. I guess you could say that a missionary is the hands and feet of Jesus to help reach and rescue a lost world.

Now you know three easy ways to quickly remember how to describe a missionary—a penny, a goat, and a pair of hands and feet. When you add that to the 3 A’s of missionaries, you now know more about missionaries than most adults.

But the best way to learn about missionaries is to get to know them when they visit your church. Don’t be afraid to ask them a lot of questions. And perhaps someday, you, too, might be answering kids’ questions about what you are doing to tell people about Jesus.