Your tickets purchased and your bags are packed. Your Bible is open and you have enough bug spray to supply a small army. It’s time for that long-planned mission trip to begin!
We go on mission trips for all sorts of reasons. And just like the references in the Bible to “one body, many parts” - all bring unique talents to the mission team. Whether you are going to build latrines, lead a summer Bible School, work in a medical clinic, or help build homes, the MOST beneficial thing to remember is that YOUR TRUE PURPOSE is to share the love of Christ.
"He must become greater; I must become less." - John 3:30
All of us want to do a good job…especially when we are serving. How can we best do that? I am not the brightest bulb in the box, but experience has given me some pretty useful lessons! And I am going to share them with you right here, right now. I have found that these are the best lessons I've learned, so I certainly don't want to keep them to myself!
Lesson Number One: It is essential to walk in from the plane, train or automobile driven by a warm spirit of gratitude, knowing that YOU will be helped by the people you have come to support and serve, maybe even more than you help them. That spirit makes you open, authentic, vulnerable, and ready, that very spirit, your sense of sharing, blesses you and allows you to serve well. And that, my friend, is pretty important.
Lesson Number Two: You may be going both to teach and to learn…when you approach the mission field believing you WILL learn while teaching, it creates a very level playing field. Everyone involved is expectant and hopeful, and the awkward (and, um, spiritually wrong) dichotomy of the do-gooder and the needy is quickly washed away. Cultivating and intercultural mindset was crucial in this lesson.
Lesson Number Three: We have a winsome charm when we make it clear we aren’t all-knowing. Our embracing the culture, asking questions, being honest and humble about our language struggles, or even our fear of something new makes us easy to relate to…and when we are laughed with or also gently teased, we are building something eternally valuable -- community.
Everyone should have the experience of being a foreigner.
So yes…go! Be authentic. Share yourself as you share Christ. You are, after all, Christ’s beloved child. We all yearn to be seen, to be liked, to be understood, to be treated as worthy. We are good missioners when we communicate those things to others. Even in moments where language fails us…we still have our eyes, our smiles, our gestures, and our hugs. They won’t be quickly forgotten.
And neither will you.
"God will be the bond between me and you, and between my children and your children forever."
-2 Samuel 20:42
Robert Dotson is a Development Consultant who has worked with mission points
and organizations developing plans to make them stay healthy and profitable.