So, the coolest thing happened yesterday. No, I'm not talking about the Packers winning the Super Bowl- although that WAS pretty great (I'm a Packers fan from waaaay back)! It was something totally different, not at all extraordinary, yet it was an incredible experience.
I don't know if I've mentioned this yet in this blog, but my husband and I have been praying for years about leading a mission trip to a foreign country. We've always wanted our passion for missions to be contagious, and one of our visions from the time we were married was to someday take a team of Mexican believers on a short-term mission trip. Maybe this doesn't sound like an unattainable goal to you, but it seemed that way to us, so let me clarify something first. Mexican Christians do not view missions the way most American Christians do. The United States has a long history of being a missionary-sending nation. Whether you personally are interested in missions or not, I would guess that most of you have either been on a short-term mission trip, had the opportunity to go on a short-term trip, or know someone who has gone on a short-term mission trip. In the U.S. we are exposed to missions, even if we don't consider it a personal call. In Mexico, there has yet to be a shift from a nation needing missionaries to a nation sending missionaries. Don't get me wrong, there ARE Mexican missionaries. We have friends working in several bigger cities around Mexico that have started missions programs in their churches and are sending and supporting missionaries. But this train of thought has not yet been adopted by all of the Mexican churches, especially NOT the churches in the small towns where we are living and working. Here the majority of believers have this mindset when it comes to missions: "Why spend all that money to preach the Gospel somewhere else when there are people that need Jesus right here?" Most of them have never been on any type of mission trip, and NONE of them have ever gone to a foreign land to spread the Good News of the Gospel.
Given the perspective concerning missions of the people where we are working, we thought it would be several more years before we could ever lead a mission trip. However, with God nothing is impossible, and He moved the timetable up. Last year, we had the opportunity to lead our first mission trip to a small village in the mountains of Puebla, 12 hours from where we live. Only 1 single guy came with us, but we were not discouraged and it paid off. The young man returned home excited about missions and taking the Gospel message to other places and other groups of people. God began to open doors, and as we prayed, we felt like God was telling us it was time to move forward and plan a foreign mission trip.
In obedience to God's leading, 18 months ago we began to plan the trip. I won't share all the details of how it all came about, but after a series of events, it was decided that we would go to Belize for 10 days in July of 2011. It seemed like so far away (the planning began in 2009), but things began to move swiftly. Many people committed to joining us on the trip, only to back out just a few months ago. Now, with 5 months to go, we have a group of 14 including us, 8 adults and 6 children. The members of the group are scared (this will be the first time they leave the country) and excited at the same time. At the beginning of January we began to meet weekly to pray together, plan together, and try to prepare ourselves spiritually for anything we may face. As part of our preparation, we have decided to do a local outreach once a month from now until the trip. Yesterday we had our first outreach...and IT was the coolest thing that I mentioned in the first line of this post.
I think I also mentioned that it wasn't extraordinary. It wasn't. We decided to make 100 sandwiches at the church, and then we went to the plaza (town square) in Sahuayo (the nearest city) to give away the sandwiches and cans of Pepsi. We told the people where we were from and what we were doing. We said that we just wanted to bless them, to love them, and tell them that God loves them too. It was really such a simple thing- a simple act of care and concern to those around us. The incredible part was the reaction that we received from the people. They couldn't believe or understand why we would give something away without asking for anything in return. They thanked us with a bit of wonder in their eyes...and our group left feeling that we were the ones who received the blessing. Why? Because it truly IS more blessed to give than to recieve. God created US for mission...Christ's last command to us was to GO into all the world and preach the Gospel. Mission isn't something extraordinary. It's just about doing the little things, showing people the love of Christ in practical ways. Mission is something that we can be a part of, no matter where we are or what we do for a living. Mission is our purpose as believers in Christ...and I believe that God is always calling us to mission- whether we choose to listen or not.
Does that mean I think we should all become missionaries in foreign lands? Not necessarily. Do I think we should all take a foreign mission trip, at least once? It certainly wouldn't hurt. Being in a foreign land, out of our element and out of our comfort zone helps us to depend on God in ways that we don't have to when we are in a comfortable routine. And meeting another people group, holding their hands, seeing their need, only makes us more compassionate and passionate for people. When we learn to be passionate about people needing Christ, we become missionaries no matter where we are. We can share Christ in so many ways, through so many strategies that in themselves are not extraoridnary. Maybe those that saw us giving things away without expecting something in return will now be better able to understand that God saves us by grace alone- it is a gift that we don't deserve, something that we just have to receive. Let's ask God to help us all to become a little more mission-minded when dealing with the people who surround us. If we do, we can be sure that WE will be blessed, time and again.