It’s been a great trip. We’ve seen and experienced things that no one outside of our group will ever fully understand – at least, not the way we do. We’ve lived together, traveled together, and served together in close proximity (sometimes too close!). We’ve had to learn how to function together in a strange place with a different culture, language, lifestyle, infrastructure and accommodations than we’re used to at home.
And we’ve loved it.
We’ve grown close, and developed a bond that is strong. We’ll never be the same. This trip has changed us forever. But therein lies the problem. Or potential problem. What happens when we get home?
How has this trip changed us?
Before we can even start to answer that question, we need to ask a different one. How has our trip changed the people we came to serve?
Were we more of a blessing, or more of a distraction? Did we point people toward Jesus in everything we did? Not just in our planned projects and group activities, but in the way we talked, walked and acted; in our attitude, in our willingness to put others before ourselves? Did we encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to grow in their faith? Did we spend time praying for them and the work God has put before them? Were we diligent in pointing people in the community toward Jesus? Were we faithful in allowing God to open our eyes to chances to interact with the people he put in front of us? Did we begin to connect them to those who are there long-term and who can begin to disciple them in what it means to follow Jesus? Did people look at us and wonder what was different about us – not just our clothes, our loud American conversations and joking, or the way we looked, but because they saw something different inside us, a reflection of the Creator?
Now, about us. How has this trip changed us?
The reality is, for most of us this was a one or two-time adventure outside of our regular lives. While God may have called some of us to serve in this place long-term, the rest of us are being called somewhere else – whether our own home town, another city in the U.S., or another part of the world. So what do we do now? How should we change? That depends.
Take another look at the questions above, under where it says “How has our group changed the people we came to serve?” The thing is, those aren’t really questions for “Christians who go to a distant land as short-term missionaries.” They are questions for every Christian, everywhere, all the time. Questions for the Church. You see, what we did on this trip wasn’t some extraordinary act of service that only a select few do, deserving the respect and praise of the rest of the people in our church back home. Their prayers? Yes. Support? Yes. Praise? No. In fact, there’s an ancient Greek word to describe this whole process in the church. Roughly translated, it is…
Jesus told us to go everywhere, and make disciples. We follow Jesus, and help others to do the same. We share the Gospel, and make disciples. Wherever we are, and wherever God calls us to go, whether alone or with a group.
Now that we’re back home, the real question is, have we been doing this all along, or did it take going somewhere far away to open our eyes to what we’re supposed to do every minute of every day? Yes, we had a great time, and made some great memories. We developed some friendships, and made some new ones. But did our joy come from this, or from being obedient to the command to walk into the darkness with the light of the Gospel? One depends on circumstances, and one depends on our relationship with Christ.
So, where are you right now, as you read this? Where have you been today? Let me ask you some questions.
Today, were you more of a blessing, or more of a distraction? Did you point people toward Jesus in everything you did? Not just in your planned projects and normal routine, but in the way you talked, walked and acted; in your attitude, in your willingness to put others before yourself? Did you encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ to grow in their faith? Did you spend time praying for them and the work God has put before them? Were you diligent in pointing people in the community toward Jesus? Were you faithful in allowing God to open your eyes to chances to interact with the people he put in front of you? Did you begin to connect them to those who can begin to disciple them in what it means to follow Jesus? Did people look at you and wonder what was different about you – not just your clothes, your loud conversations and joking, or the way you looked, but because they saw something different inside you, a reflection of the Creator?
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, ESV)
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV)
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, ESV)
In His Name,