We have just returned from a 2 week mission trip to Kenya. It was an incredible time. We saw so many amazing things and experiencing another culture. I am sure there will be many more blog posts telling and retelling the adventures as the trip was definitely life changing. In this post however I wanted to jot down some thoughts on missions trips in general. For those of us that have been away on missions it is clear something changes when we travel and share Gods light in a new location. You take the same quiet, seemingly average Christians and place them in an unfamiliar location with unfamiliar people and you have a recipe that allows God to do incredible things. The lame walk, the blind see, the dead are raised and many receive salvation. It sounds like something straight off the pages of the gospels. For many Christians mission trips become the high watermark they aim for in the rest of their lives. How can we see the same level of breakthrough in our home cities, villages and towns? I don’t claim to have any answers just some observations.
I have noticed that many people really come to life when on a mission trip. It is like the true person comes bursting to the surface. Being on a team where everyone’s gifts and characters need to work together seems to create an environment that encourages growth. Mission trips seem to provide space unlike many home environments to discover everyone’s strengths (and weaknesses!). When you are free from your usual safety and boundaries most people simply step up to whatever challenge they are faced with. When you get given the stage at a meeting where noone speaks your language except your interpreter you have to say something! What tends to come out is all that is inside.
So how can we see the same growth and adventure at home. Well one thing is certain, God is the same all around the world. He is not favouring one nation over another, his favour rests on believers everywhere. We are called to make disciples of ALL nations. Another idea that I don’t think is correct is that God is only responding because of the great need of the people (especially in developing countries). God definitely cares about human need (he cares more than us! look at the compassion Jesus felt for the sick) however if the main thing that caused God to move on earth was human need then the poorest nations in the world would very quickly become the richest! The currency that moves God is faith. Faith suggests trust, dependence and relationship. At home we all have boundaries and ways to hide. Unexpected opportunities are few and far between and risk is usually minimised. Even when opportunities do appear it is often easier to say no! The fear of failure keeps most of us busy with safe tasks and surrounded by people we are familiar with. You cannot discover the potential of a 4×4 vehicle without taking it off road and similarly it is difficult to discover the potential in a person without risk and opportunity. So if God is the same the world over let’s step out and take risk to see him do the impossible through us in our home nations.
If you are anything like me you will have a default bias towards safety and security. God asks that our security and safety be placed in him not in our circumstances and friends. Gods idea of safety is usually different to ours! It could include offering to pray for someone in a wheelchair, being shipwrecked or approaching a stranger to bless them. We need to develop habits to push ourselves regularly or we could be stunting our potential. I love this quote from a book I am currently reading:
“…we forget that there is no victory without a battle, no testimony without a test and no miracle without an impossible circumstance.”
Kris Vallotton – Spirit Wars
Another thing I have noticed is that missions trips also tend to include a variety of activities which can provide opportunities not normally available at home. I suspect that not every gifting fits neatly into the average church structure and leadership team. An interesting discussion is how can we pull on the gifts and character of all the people around us without travelling half way around the world on mission trips. How can we spot these gifts, develop them and give people a platform who would not normally get one? Can we encourage people out of their comfort zone to discover their greatness?
These are just some thoughts that have helped me as I continue to process the mission trip dynamic. Personally I love travelling to different places, learning about new cultures and discovering more of what God has put inside me.