If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you will know that I’ve done a lot of short mission trips. Most of those have been to Mexico which is where I am at today. It is my 7th trip here in 7 years.
This summer I won’t be coming back with the group I usually come with. I’m sad that I will miss serving with people I’ve seen year after year. Instead I will be serving along with the other youth leaders in my church at summer camp and pouring into their lives as they take their next step in learning about Jesus. But I also didn’t want to miss the opportunity serve this year.
In a lot of ways coming here this weekend was like coming back home. God has done so much in my life here in this place. He taught me how to step out on faith, how to follow him into an unknown place with unknown people that speak a different language than I do. He taught me to rely on his grace and love to see people the way he sees them instead of using my own flawed judgmental lenses. He taught me to sacrifice and to use what he has given me to help others understand how much he loves them, how to accept him, and how he can change their lives the way he did for me.
When I came here the first time I was selfish, prideful, self-absorbed and my life was reaping the rewards of my bad choices. I was dealing with 30 year old hurts that needed healing and a lot of baggage that I’d carried for years without realizing I had it. I knew I needed change, but I was in no place and had no ability to do the changing. I needed God’s help. When I asked, he delivered far beyond anything I could have ever expected or known. Here I am, my seventh trip to this place.
This time God led me here to plan a trip for others to experience him. It wasn’t easy getting here. I had one of the hardest, physically and mentally demanding weeks I’ve had leading up to being here, but I had people at home praying for me and God was directing my path.
There were storms and flight delays, crises at work that needed my attention, and lots of distractions at every turn. Even as I was praying on the way here, a car nearly ran me off the road. Some people would say that I am experiencing Karma. Some might say you need to listen to what the world is telling you and go home. I’ve heard all these negative messages time and time again and especially as I’ve taken this trip: “Don’t rock the boat.” “Don’t go there.” “Don’t do this.” “Look out for yourself, there’s going to be problems.” “These people don’t really need you.” “God doesn’t need you to deliver any message to them.” “You can’t speak the language.” “You won’t be able to communicate.”
But I choose to listen to another voice. It is what Jesus told his disciples.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” — Mt 28:18-20
In seven years, this is the first time I’ve come here alone without a team or a leader to rely on. It was time to practice that first step again and go back to a place where I was uncomfortable and to stretch into an unknown. But Jesus said, “I am with you always”. There’s no greater comfort than that.
Even this morning as I was typing out this post, I had an “emergency” pop up at work. It was a mild distraction from the post and broke my train of thought.
But Paul says:
Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it. — Php 1:28-30
I don’t have an interpreter, but I do have friendships I had made with others who live here. They speak English and Spanish. When I showed up I was welcomed with open arms, open hearts and open homes.
The response I received took me a little by surprise. One of the lies that it is so easy to accept is that “I’ve done enough”. Somewhere in my mind I was looking for that next step to be something somewhere else, but God was leading me back here and this time he was leading me here to step out on my own. I was expecting more resistance because of the events leading up to my being here. Something told me that I would have to work really hard to make this work, and though some planning has been done, there is still much work to do and lots of opportunity for things to get in the way.
As he has so often done in the past, God had already prepared the way for me and I am coming home with a plan, a mission and an opportunity to spread the love of Jesus.
Now begins the work of planning, but before we get there, I thought it might be useful to outline some of the steps that I’ve had to go through to get to this point in my journey. The earlier mission trips in many ways were preparation for me.
As I said earlier, I learned something from each trip. Each time I took that piece of knowledge, understanding and spiritual growth back home with me and have been working to put much of it into practice at home. The mission field isn’t a place you go to experience growth and then stop. It’s one step on a bigger journey that God leads you on.
Your mission may not be an international trip. It could be helping a neighbor through cancer, or helping a family that has fallen on hard times. It might be helping a drug addict get clean, or helping a homeless family find a place to live. Maybe it’s serving a child whose parents have gone to jail. A mission isn’t about you and it’s not about putting the other people first. It’s about serving the God who created us first, the one who set out a plan for us ahead of time. Then loving others. I’ve found that the more I love God, the more I love others and myself. But when I’m not serving God, I love myself less and my love for others grows cold. It’s following what Jesus told us to do. Love God with all our heart, soul and mind. Then love your neighbor as yourself.
To fulfill that mission, we go into the world taking the message to the nations and sharing God’s love for them.
If this is the sort of mission God has led you to do, then reach out to me and we can discuss being part of this one. I look forward to serving along with you side by side.