Yesterday at church I tried to talk about Zambia without crying or blathering on like a bimbo. I failed. Sam loves it when I cry at church.
What I think people want to know is this: Was it worth the money and the effort? Did you accomplish what you intended?
Short term missions can be tricky, so I’ll be months sorting that out, but here are six reasons I think fiscally responsible, culturally aware, Christ-centered mission trips are worth considering (besides the elephants.)
1. World travel is important because the world is circling the drain. Talking with a stranger, in broken English and sign language, we discover they too like ice cream, safe schools, jobs and Tide laundry detergent. This demystifying process reminds us people of other cultures are like us. But when we isolate ourselves with folks of our color, belief system and economic class, fear of others festers, and that makes it easier for us to bomb them when someone suggests we should. How much more of that can this world take?
2. America, while problematic, is still a global beacon of stability and function, so quit complaining. In many countries, the arrival of a new president/dictator/supreme overlord means all the rules change, again, and it’s hard to kick a ball through a moving goalpost. Although the American media insists the US Constitution is being dismantled, it’s still there and it still works. The Republic is far from perfect but it could be soooooooooo much worse. Be grateful. Be involved.
3. Pressure reveals what lurks under your spiritual exterior and Africa is wonderful at applying that pressure. So when the bus breaks down, again, turning a four-hour trip into twelve, will I pitch a fit and yell at everyone trapped in the same boat? Or will I ball up my blanket, scream into it and then say, “someday I will laugh about the Zambian dudes tying the leaf springs together with a tree bark rope.”
4. You may experience the life of faith you forget to live at home. On a mission trip, praying about things is the first resort. In Zambia, we prayed over constipation and shame and witch doctors in the woods. One morning, I prayed four times before 9am with different people for different reasons. All day, I found myself in meditative conversation with Jesus over dumb things, big things, things that made no sense. Zambia took my prayers to a new level. And by the way, it works, but more on that later.
5. You are literally obeying Jesus, who said, go into all the nations and preach the gospel. Sometimes I forget to do that when the line is long at Starbucks or I’m stuck in traffic and it’s hot. It doesn’t matter where you are, Jesus commanded his followers to tell people about Him – that He is the way, the truth and the life. You’d be surprised how many people are hungry to hear that. Human beings are desperate for hope, so don’t let them down just because somebody might disagree. If that’s the case, just be nice and carry on. Remember eternal ripples are hard to count.
6. Somebody might just say, “Yep, count me in.” On a dusty bench in Zambia that happened to me nine times. Not counting the 250 people who prayed for salvation after the Jesus film, nine people told Charity, me and a handful of others, they wanted to follow Jesus. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. All we did was open our mouths and follow Charity’s lead. Those people trust Charity because the love of God falls from her like rain. Don’t miss that…the love comes first. In fact, after hearing about the God who so loved the world he gave his only son, one woman tore off a necklace, placed on her baby by the local witch doctor, and threw it in the bushes.
So don’t go on a short-term mission trip to change the world, because you won’t. Go because the world will change you.
And that may just be what God’s after.