There are many people I admire, but one at the top of the list is Mother Theresa. For many reasons she is a great spiritual influence but what most captivates me is the simplicity of her service. It doesn’t take a spectacle to change a life.
Her voice echoes in many ears:
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”
“I am doing the call within the call”
“Never travel faster than your guardian angel can fly.”
My fascination with her life began early in high school when I read about her house for the dying and destitute in a devotional. She planted herself in the impoverished areas of Calcutta, India. Since then similar ministries have sprouted and thousands of nuns have taken the additional vow Mother Theresa instituted: “to give whole-hearted service to the poorest of the poor.”
I wasn’t captivated by a show, I was captivated by a heart.
Today, the secular world is hooked on wanderlust and the evangelical Christian world is hooked on missions trips. Stepping foot out of the country has almost become a rite of passage in many circles. The danger is the miss-intention that easily lurks under a trip plastered as a mission.
Many are motivated to travel just to boost their social credibility.
Growing up in an evangelical church, I met my fair share of missionaries and came across many opportunities. After my first-term mission trip during middle school in impoverished Appalachia, my heart broke and I fully devoted myself to God’s service. A few years later in 2013 I went on my first abroad short-term mission trip and when I came back I struggled. Did going to a third world country for a week really make a difference?
Of-course each mission is all contingent on the time, place, resources, and circumstance. In some cases, it may be better to send a check than to travel 2,000 miles. In other cases, an area may be in desperate need of some long-term workers, especially ones with specific skills. In many cases, the people of the nation need to be equipped so they can sustain themselves. Going to build a house for a week or donating a pair of shoes may be taking jobs away from locals, or it may be blessing them.
Sometimes missions are just using and exploiting the vulnerable.
What really is a mission? Biblically a mission is spreading the light of the gospel to all nations, but after its long history, the word mission covers an umbrella of trips. It used to always be a full life-time dedication to a certain area. Now it is also includes youth trips to the mountains.
A re-wording of the types of “missions” would give the power back to the job. To me, missions is still a full life (or lengthy) dedication to a specific people group or nation. The goal of a mission is for a conversation, not to change the world.
This does not discredit the short trips, but most of them are not really missions. Short trips are important for exposure. After my first trip abroad I gained a global perspective. I knew the world was so much bigger than myself. They are also trips of self-discovery. Seeds for missions are often planted during short trips. Changing the terminology of all these trips sets the tone for each type of trip and releases the valve of expectation to do something extraordinary in a short amount of time.
Missionaries have a lengthy, glorious, and tumultuous history. Like anything done by humans, missions have their flaws. In the past, missions involved cultural change by force, turning “savages” into civilized people with no respect for their native heritage. Today, orphan tourism, going to orphanages briefly to take pictures and post them on social media, and disabling local economies through excessive humanitarian aid are prevalent issues in modern missions. Even Mother Theresa’s house for the dying doesn’t have proper infection prevention and safe medical practices.
Another issue is ignoring our own home’s needs. We must not ignore the starving people sitting next to us. There are many broken people in third world nations, but there are also broken people in families, jobs, and grocery stores.
Every day is a mission.
Everything must be done with a mission in mind. It is an impossible mission that can only be done with Jesus.
Feeding people spiritually starts by spreading Jesus’ love. Humanitarian work is a tool we can use to meet physical needs and to help the mission, but service does not replace the mission of spreading the gospel..
There are always opportunities to be disciples of all nations especially now. The world is more connected than ever before. Travel is as easy as google searches. Even the global climate involving the refugee crisis have made it possible to impact whole nations without stepping a foot out of your country. Whole nations are coming to our shores.
This summer I am serving at a Christian conference center called Ridgecrest. God strongly waved me in this direction, but I still struggled. It all seemed perfect: I would be in the region where I first fell in love with serving, I would be learning skills that would benefit my future ministry, and I would be in a strong spiritual environment to grow. But, how was I going to spread the Gospel? God always makes opportunities. My ministry right now is providing rest to those who come. God has even put non-Christians and lukewarm Christians in my path to love. Every person is always needing love, whether they are Christian or not.
All great works begins with feeding one person for God’s glory, not a whole world and not as a picture for your Instagram story.
Give. Pray. Serve. And Go.
Do it all with Jesus because you will fail in your own strength, only He can change the world. We are mere stewards of his mysteries.
Eurasia Community: Many people in this region have never heard the gospel. Many refugees come from this region too. Eurasia needs your prayers
IBM Global: This is another organization with the goal of church planting.
Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis: The Refugee crisis is a very complex and controversial issue. The best thing we can do to serve those who have had their homes taken from them is by learning and understanding the issue.
Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World: Amy Peterson explores missionary work with wisdom, thoughtfulness, and gut honesty. She uses her own story to explain the reality of missions.
Living on One: These post college guys conducted a social experiment involving living in the conditions of an agrarian third world community. They learn what really needs to be done for these people.
Holy Ghost: This film led by the Holy Spirit shows the extraordinary in the ordinary. By the end they end up worshiping God in the middle of a high Hindu temple.
Ridgecrest Conference Center: If you need a mountain get away, this may be the place for you to rest.