Why go there?
A common question posed among Christian circles these days is “How important is it to go on an international mission trip? Aren’t there enough ministry opportunities right in our own backyard?”
I certainly understand the heart behind the question, and I confess I can’t give you objective answers in that regard. Yes, there is need in your own community, and yes, you are called to serve the vulnerable right where you are. You are also, of course, called to go unto the nations.
Then, there is the concern that these are different times; troubling times. We don’t know our neighbors. There is less civility in the world. As my mom would say, “More crazies!”
But I believe there is great danger for believers in adopting a mentality that is too fearful of people and cultures that are foreign to your own. This is more for you adults than your children. It is the danger of ignoring, dismissing or avoiding people who are different than you…cultures, colors and religions different than yours.
I used to be the one asking those “why go there?” questions back when I hated the thought of depriving myself of modern facilities, USDA-inspected food and people who could speak my language. Everything was too different. I was comfortable with the familiar, like Holiday Inns – things that come with no surprises.
What I discovered in serving God overseas is a far different side of myself than I knew existed in my American cocoon. And nothing short of “strange” was ever going to reveal those life-altering revelations to me. I was not going to be able to deal with my inherent selfishness until I saw desperately poor children sharing the little they had. I was not going to believe I could love my enemies until I traveled to Russia and learned to love her orphans. I was not going to get over my privileged lifestyle until I learned to love children with one change of clothes to their names. I was not going to care for trafficking victims until I learned to love the children who were on the traffickers’ shopping list.
It’s my belief that we tend to overthink what God’s will is for our lives when it comes to mission trips. We have already been told to “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel.” Do you really think God would rather have you stay home than possibly go to the wrong place? There is no wrong mission field! Wherever you go, you will learn something new about yourself, about God and about His children. Eventually, I feel sure, He will clarify where he wants you to invest yourself more completely.
The fields are white unto harvest. Pick one and go! If you’re lucky, you’ll meet a stranger or two who will introduce you to your better self!