I came, I saw, but I didn’t conquer. Better than that. I was conquered. Me…and all that I think I am or am not, was forcefully moved out of the way and with that big mess set aside, I breathed in spiritually and saw and felt at a level I can’t even begin to describe. God showed me how love and joy and simplicity, with no stuff to distract, leads to compassion and vision that sees what God sees. The process was slow because I am slow to learn. So glad my God is very patient.
I went to Kenya, Africa, on a mission trip. I, as in me. As in… me and Kenya and mission trip together in the same sentence. Completely unreal, yet real. The unknown, above and beyond any unknown I had ever encountered before. And even stranger, I chose to do this. God did not prompt anyone to offer encouragement or give a gentle, or not so gentle, push. He knows I need pushing sometimes and He uses people in my life like that. But this…this was a direct call from God to me. I made the decision to go because I felt so strongly that I was supposed to do this.
So many who know me were shocked when I informed them I was going. Like really-shocked-but-trying-not-to-look-so-shocked… for my sake. And as time marched on, some people even expressed surprise that I was going to completely follow through and not back out. Some were concerned, even though most did not tell me that. Concerned for my safety, yes, but also concerned that maybe this was way too far out of my tiny comfort zone, and what would happen to me? After being plucked from the cozy box I like to reside in and being forcefully thrown many miles and many worlds away from home – arriving in a 3rd world country so very far away, and far removed, from anything I have ever known, would I be OK? Ummm…yes. Or at least, my version of OK.
Indecisive, overcautious, afraid, over analytical me. Yes, I received a very personal and powerful call from God that I could not deny or hide from. But yes, it was scary, and it felt very awkward at times, and uncomfortable on so many levels. Yes, I had moments of “What am I doing here?” and “Did I misunderstand God?” and “I can’t do this!”
We arrived on a Saturday and our first activity was to attend a church service on Sunday morning in a small community about an hour away. Sunday evening, we had a debriefing and shared our thoughts on the church service and the people. There was some discussion about the obvious evidence of how fortunate we are to have all the material things and conveniences we have in America, and how we should remember our glimpse here of an environment where there is little in the way of material possessions, and yet these people have plenty of what is important.
After the sharing died down, we were given this question: “If you had to leave tomorrow, what would you take away from this?” I remained contemplative and silent. But my mind was the scene of an intensely competitive race as thoughts tumbled one over another, scattered, willy-nilly, and yet, one thought trumped all others. If that question had been posed to me just hours earlier that morning before we left for the church service, my response would have been: “If I can go and not impose on anyone else, when can I leave? I’ve made a mistake and I shouldn’t be here. God didn’t really call me to this. I imagined it.”
You see, that morning getting ready, I went into full blown panic mode. My destructive and fearful thoughts that try to run my life were very busy.
My fast running thoughts went something like this:
“I don’t know these people on this mission team. I’m not like them. I don’t have a passion for this. I’m not excited about this. The schedule of all we will be doing that was shared last night? Others are thrilled and can’t wait to begin. I’m thoroughly terrified. And leave it to me, I did not even know enough to pack the right gear for this trip. I am the only one with a big purse instead of a backpack and a carryon that I actually had to carry all over the airport because it didn’t have wheels. What was I thinking? I’m not cut out for this! I’m the square peg that will never fit into this round hole. This isn’t me. I don’t even know how to pack for a mission trip, much less participate in one.”
And the clincher: that reoccurring thought, faster and more intense than all the others –
“I’ll mess this up!! I’ll somehow inadvertently hurt the precious children’s feelings. I’ll say the wrong thing to the adults and offend them instead of being an encouragement to them and showing them God’s love. I’ll be a detriment and a burden and create all manner of drama that shouldn’t happen.”
And that was just for a little while Sunday morning as I was getting ready to attend the church service with the others. Yeah, I know. I’m a mess. And yes, I had this same type of panic complete with snowballing thoughts several times during the two week duration of this trip.
Through it all, God gave me, in His perfect timing, shining, dazzling, unmistakable glimmers of His hope and light. Reassurance and affirmation that He was in this, He wanted me there, and He was working even as I panicked. He lovingly reminded me of what I knew. This was what I was supposed to do. I was where I was supposed to be, even though there were times I felt like a fish out of water on the beach I’d never seen in the unfamiliar sand I’d never felt.
This trip was God’s miraculous gift to me. It was absolutely a miracle that I went, and another miracle that God showed me, in spite of me, how I can help make a tiny bit of difference simply by giving a hug or holding a hand or giving a high five. I could see the difference immediately in the responding smiles and laughter and love reciprocated in much larger proportion than I gave. I also learned that I don’t have to have a passion for missions. I don’t have to yearn to serve others in a third world country to be a viable participant.
All that is required to participate in a mission trip is:
- You must be a living, breathing, person, and fairly healthy.
- You must have a willing heart to learn what God wants to show you.
That’s it. That’s all. And knowing what I know now, it also helps if you have a spirit of expectancy for when God shows up. Because He will. And He will blow you away with His presence and His love. He will bless you for your obedience in unfathomable ways – in really big God ways.
When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required. Luke 12:48b, NLT
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. Phil 2:5, 7, NLT
As a Christian living in America with an over abundance of comfort and so many things I don’t really need, I have been given much. Much is required of me. And I am to have the attitude of my Savior. Giving up a few conveniences for a short period of time to minister to others does not begin to compare to all Jesus Christ gave up, for me.