Once upon a time, this privileged white kid sat in a sparkly church van and rolled through the poverty of a Mexican border town on a work team, trying to snap pictures inconspicuously. My world was rocked. I exclaimed with the rest of the team over the sights outside my window. But mostly, I just gripped my friend’s hand as our van swerved around in what seemed to be the most disastrous, chaotic traffic this Iowa girl had ever experienced. (Passing tractors during planting and harvesting season just didn’t compare.)
After multiple mission trip experiences, my husband and I were making arrangements to head back to Mexico, this time to live as missionaries. But, we couldn’t get past our neighborhood, much less out of our country.
Over time we realized that God set us on a path of living missions here in the USA. Through struggle and holy fumbling, we found the short-term experience to be wonderful and powerful but drastically different than living this thing out day after day after day after day after day. Because, while I had come to function happily (even expertly) in the world of short-term trips, I felt like a clueless stranger dropped into the world of everyday surrender.
But “doing missions” was never meant to be a compartmentalized Christian activity in the life of a disciple.
Mission organizations were never meant to function as Christian travel agencies. Mission trips were never meant to take on their own identity and outshine the call to daily obedience.
Truth is, when we divorce “mission” from everyday living and only affirm it in occasional trips and events, the body of Christ is left with an awkward, inconsistent model of living out our faith, one that lacks real discipleship. We excuse our routinely busy schedules, hoping to clear them once or twice a year for missions. We may be willing to sacrifice over there but live in self-indulgence here. We may act like Christians there but sling mud here. We may see a certain project or effort valid there yet unnecessary right in our backyards. We send off missionaries to far off lands but justify numerous reasons to not live in certain parts of the city. We sign up and pay thousands to travel far away where it is far easier to love unknown faces for a week, but fail to consistently love the family of God or our neighbors here. We talk about justice and poverty over there but have no real relationships with anyone disadvantaged or living in poverty here.
But, can we strike a balance, where short-term mission trips and projects remain worthwhile and valid, as does living on mission in our everyday lives?
Can we passionately embrace an integrated, all-consuming approach to living out our faith while here?
If so, then maybe it wouldn’t seem like such a big deal to pick up and go to another country to serve. Maybe it would be a natural step, a gentle flowing from one place to another, but with the same purpose, heart, and vision.
We wouldn’t talk then as much about how our lives were dramatically changed or how our worlds were rocked on that one amazing trip.
And, maybe it wouldn’t have been such an emotional experience of contrasts for me to visit that border town years ago.
But, truth is, this missional living has fewer spotlights and less applause, and it doesn’t come easily for those of us who have been teething on short-term mission trips. It’s less about projects and photo opps or sweet debriefing times and energetic teammates. It’s more about dying daily. It’s more about persevering and steadfastness and choosing love when no warm feelings abound. It claims our everything, demanding both the here and the over there, be fully surrendered and united.
In conclusion, friends, please don’t just do missions; live missions in your everydays. Surrender to it. Let it break your heart and rearrange your schedule. Involve your family. Put your feet in it and walk in the opportunities God gives you here. Live sacrificially. Give fearlessly. Open your door. Choose to see your community as a mission field. Pray for the average people you see every day. Get some sore knees over it. Cry a little and lose some sleep over it. Take your place in your church family. Love generously. Speak up for the voiceless. Live passionately, bearing the Gospel message here as well as there.
And, by all means, take advantage of opportunities to travel and minister in other places, as God directs. May your doing over there be the natural overflow of intentional living as His disciple here.