Help, I’m planning a mission’s trip!
It’s spring break and I’m reminded that the season for mission trips has begun. While some teams are taking advantage of this week off school to go somewhere, many other teams are gearing up for a summer mission’s trip. These trips have been instrumental in the lives of so many and my own life as well.
It was the impact of a mission trip that sparked my interest in what God was doing around the world and began my journey of becoming a missionary in Slovenia. While living overseas, we hosted dozens of teams from the States, UK and even Germany that wanted to experience a mission trip as well. Some of the teams were wonderful and some were complete train wrecks.
Now as a pastor in the States I find myself on the other end, preparing and sending teams to places all over the world. Here’s what I want them to know as they go.
A Posture of Mission?
A knock on the front door signals someone has come for a visit. The owner of the house gets up from his comfortable chair in the corner, puts the paper down and opens the door to a group of wide-eyed teenagers standing behind two adults that he briefly met the year before. The group has arms full of suitcases and gifts so the owner happily invites them in. “Please come in, take a seat anywhere, can I get you some tea?”
The group begins to put their stuff down but declines the tea. “We are here to serve you! This is a mission’s trip to your house!” On that cue, a few members of the group get up and begin acting out the evangelistic skit they had been practicing for months while others in the group begin deep cleaning the hallway and kitchen without ever being asked. The owner feels a bit awkward in his own home watching these guests fumble around trying to find the light switches and cleaning supplies.
“We are just here to be a blessing,” they say. One member of the team that is cleaning, notices that the cups are in a difficult spot for them to reach, so they eagerly begin rearranging the kitchen to help the owner of the house have a more ‘efficient’ kitchen. Perhaps the poor owner didn’t know any better than to put the cups where they did and so the individual feels good about using their gift of organization.
Busy at work, the team is beginning to feel like they are accomplishing something on their ‘mission trip’ while the host graciously thanks them for all their work knowing that it will take some time after they leave to put things back to how they were before they came. The ‘mission trip’ to the house is nearly complete and over the last meal, an abundance of gifts are given to the host and kind words of thanks pour over him.
Then the bags are packed and goodbyes are said, but a feeling that perhaps they received more than they gave on this trip puzzles the group. The owner of the house says goodbye, closes the door after ten days of constant activity to pick up his paper again, only to find his comfortable chair broken...
This scene is meant to be humorous but unfortunately is not unlike what will happen on mission trips all over the world this year. A well-meaning group of people will give up time and money to go somewhere and serve a people that they have identified as needing their help. It’s much easier to raise support highlighting the deficit and need of others than what these trips so often really accomplish.
As you prepare for that mission trip, let me offer you a slightly different posture to take.
1. A Posture of Humility
When we first moved to Slovenia as missionaries it was like I became a child again. I didn’t know how to change a fuse in their odd fuse boxes. I didn’t know how to apply for a driver’s license or where to buy paint or even get an aspirin for a headache. It took me six hours to change out the light fixture in our bedroom because I didn’t have any of the right tools. I had to ask neighbors, friends, and even complete strangers for help daily.
Some missionary I was, I couldn’t even do the most basic tasks, how could I serve others? It was a difficult and humbling place to be. I painfully learned that sometimes you serve others by allowing them to serve you. By simply asking others to ‘help!’ you invite people into a relationship, where you show yourself to be weak. I believe it is in those moments that Christ is made strong to those you came to serve.
That’s just what Jesus does at times as well. He goes to a well outside of a Samaritan city and asks a woman “will you give me a drink?” Because of that question and allowing others to serve him, a door is opened for the gospel and a town is changed. A woman comes and washes Jesus’ feet and the disciples want to stop her, but Jesus doesn’t let them. He knew that by humbly accepting her service he could touch her heart in a profound way.
It’s difficult to accept help but remember when you are in another country—someone else’s home—you have been invited in, so take a humble posture and learn to be served. If they offer you tea, say yes. Ask lots of questions in areas you see their strengths or areas you just don’t understand yet. In asking for help with how to order food at a restaurant you might just open a door for the gospel.
2. A Posture of Partnership
America has never been and will never be the center of Christianity. I sense that many seminaries and churches are beginning to humbly reflect this truth. We need to listen to the voices of believers from all over the world to help wake us up to our own need of the gospel here in the States. This isn’t just cultural, it’s Biblical.
Paul in the book to the Romans gives a logical reason for the call to missions that we so cut short.
Romans 10:14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
You feel the tug and the burning desire well up within you to GO! We are called to action and often the page of the Bible is left open at this spot as we prepare and make plans to go. That is where the urge and call to missions usually stops, leaving the incredible importance on us. God sure needs us, without us the word wouldn’t go out. We must go, we must send because without us they are lost! But the passage does not stop there. Before our heads get too puffed up, Paul brings us back to see God’s perspective and our role in missions as a posture of partnership. He goes on to continue his logical argument.
Romans 10:18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have…
You should go, you should send, but remember God is already at work where you are going! Paul goes on to affirm how creation speaks of God, day and night it pours out speech. Paul gives examples of Israel’s repeating history of failing to become priests to the nations. Despite them refusing to go as missionaries and be the lights of the world, God still showed himself to those nations “who did not ask for me.”
The question then of how they will hear if you don’t go is answered, God will make a way and it will be without you! So, why would you ever want to miss that incredible privilege and opportunity to partner with God and others to see his Kingdom come? You miss the blessing. Maybe you need the mission trip as much or more than the people you are going to serve need you?
As you go on a ‘mission trip’ this summer, stay alert for ways in which God is already at work in the people and country that you are visiting; you have something to learn from them. I asked my friend Juan in Mexico last summer what the church in America might learn from the church in Mexico, and it opened a wonderful discussion on the strengths of each and how we need each other as we partner in the gospel.
When your bags are packed and you meet the team at the airport, make sure your heart is in the right posture for the mission God has called you to. What a privilege it is to go as a representative of God and see how he is at work in a different corner of our world. When the host invites you in, sit and have a cup of tea and listen to how God is working there and look for opportunities to partner with God and others in the Gospel.
Romans 1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Joel Woodard serves as a pastor of Cornerstone Church in Gresham, Oregon. Before that, he spent seven years as a missionary in Slovenia where two of his four children were born. Joel loves leading people to see how the Bible one unified story pointing to Jesus.
Image courtesy: Pexels.com
Publication date: April 13, 2017