I'm not a great digger. Actually, I'm not handy at all. I electrocuted myself installing a ceiling fan. I could have sworn I had shut the power off at the breaker-box. I mean, it was in the instructions and I read English just fine. There are a lot of things I don't do well around the house including all things involving tools, electric or otherwise. I'm not good with electronics and the yard is a little rough. I once cut through the electric hedge trimmer’s extension cord with the trimmer, even though the cord is that bright safety orange. I can mow, edge, and change light bulbs. You should see me with light bulbs, the whole house in an afternoon and I only drop a couple.
For these reasons, I believe that I would be a hazard on a mission trip. Digging, cementing, hanging shingles, building houses, it's an endless construction list for which I am ill equipped both from an experience standpoint as well as a motivation standpoint. I think that my gift to these projects is to be an audience and provide donations. I have pictures of sponsored children on our corkboard at home. We sponsor a dozen children in third-world nations and receive their letters. Not only do we send financial support, but we also send Christmas packages. I am pleased to be a part of these efforts. I consider them to be mission work. All in all, I think that my family is about covered on the "Mission Trip" opportunity.
Misconception - Mission trips are about you and what you can do.
Jesus was so clear in His life and teachings; feed the hungry, take care of the sick, and protect the widows and foreigners. Teach the Good News around the world. When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, he did not tell the story of a physician with amazing skills. He told the story of a caring person who was there, did what he could with what he had, and made certain that the healing happened. The Good Samaritan did not turn away even though he was not medically trained (Luke 10:25-37). That was not the only example. Jesus' commission was to go everywhere and to help everyone.
You and I have heard of the amazing stories of people who have gone on mission trips. They often return home with a different picture of people, themselves, resources, joy, and of this planet. I live in an affluent suburb. I really do not want to see those things up close. To be completely transparent, my biggest concern is whether my Internet connection is always working. I'm shallow. I like to help with third world problems by writing a check, not putting a spade in the ground. Ok, I said it. I like comfort and I am pampered in my first world bubble. God loves me, but the real question has to be: am I loving Him?
Some stores have an online portal to provide your "suggestions for improvement." I have taken this idea and created an Excel™ spreadsheet for my list of excuses for not doing mission work:
• Kids- my kids are just too young, too busy and it isn't safe.
• Business- the business cannot go for a week or two with me disconnected like that (whatever "that" is, "that" to be defined at another time).
• Health- best of all for me, I've had a heart attack, a have a brain pacemaker for epilepsy, and nasty hay fever.
• Travel- I cannot be that far away from my parents, family, dogs, neighbors, and in ground sprinkler system.
• Safety- (legitimate) the world is a dangerous place and I do not want to go to a more dangerous place than the one in which I am already.
• Skills- I don't know how to do anything.
I summarized the list from the spreadsheet. Each of the items had their own line, but I grouped them for the sake of space. My God-trump card, I'm serious, is the health one. I can stand before the Lord when it is time and say that I did not reach out in the world further than my fingertips because of my health. Kids are a good back up excuse. Safety is a real excuse, but other people are managing it, so it may not be as great an excuse as I thought. The others are a bit sketchy now that I have written them down, but how many good excuses do you really need?
You know what the problem is with a very smart and faith-filled spouse? They are very smart and faith-filled. That person does not really let you get away with anything. I was reading this chapter to her as she was doing things in the kitchen and walked by saying, "We don't really have to leave the country to do mission work." I could just hear where this was going. I believe my walls of Jericho came down with thunderous roars and blaring of horns. My walls were going to come down with single sentence observations, randomly offered by the love of my life. Over the rest of the day, I heard her say:
• "I feel terrible for the people in Texas after Hurricane Harvey."
• "The kids need to be a part of any of our mission work if we do any."
• "There is mission work everywhere, we could just start helping, and we don't have to go anywhere."
• "My mom is coming for two weeks around Thanksgiving, maybe we can plan for you and I to do some work with one of the missions here in town. I can just call the church."
• "I think you'll be cleared for travel by Christmas."
• "If nothing else, we can always unload boxes, or move things around."
The comments went on over the course of the day, one at a time. Sometimes there was a pattern; sometimes it was random. It was the gentle nudge in the right direction. All of us have been put on mission by Jesus; it was part of the Great Commission and demonstrated through His life.
I talked with my wife's uncle, who in the past five years went from not being involved in a mission to being someone who has become a huge supporter of an orphanage in Haiti. He now goes 3-4 times a year. He's in marginally good health for 70. He is not wealthy, and he had never been involved in missions before. Now he was a full-on missionary. Whaddup?
His answer was that he does it in large part for himself. The mission gave him a real understanding of purpose and of being involved in the world, not just what his community meant. He was an elder in his church, taught Sunday school, and raised Christian children, but it was the mission work that put him in connection with Christ. His mission work is dangerous. The part of Haiti where the orphanage is located has gangs looking to steal children for trafficking. The workers are threatened; theft and kidnapping are real possibilities. Yet he looks forward to every visit and recruits others to join him. He also raises money to support the forgotten children of Haiti.
The lie of skills over heart was the one that I have given all of my life. Jesus said that there are more crops than there are workers. There is always work to be found.
So often in my chapters, I do not have a nice little bow to tie up the chapter's final paragraph. What happens if the chapter ties up its own bow and I don't have anything else to add?