Friday, July 24, 2009

Why Adults Need to Go on "Away" Mission Trips

I don't usually speak of Mission Trips as much as I do "Away" Mission experiences. I guess I have some issues with the idea these are vacations (which is what a "trip" sounds like). Or that they are for a select few people in a church with certain skills ("Oh I can't do that, I don't have any skills"). Or perhaps that mission teams aren't for everyone but a certain percentage of the percentage that are already busy in the church (like you've got to be supergood, or proven, or something?).

Honestly, I can't easily separate out the various activities in my Christian life. Rather it seems to me the various elements are part of the whole. So, worship, prayer, study and discussion groups, fellowship, and service all constitute the way I follow Christ, and are therefore worthy of daily practice. And for me the fact has been that this all comes together nicely in a mission experience as all the elements are there!

First, some caveats: This challenge is intended for the person of average health, who can spend a week or more away from home, and who doesn't have any restrictive medical, health, or dietary issues. It's also for folk who, as I often say, "can claim a mission and who haven't been claimed by one." By that, I mean that many of us, at certain stages in life, have life challenges which demand all our extra time and attention, e.g. caring for a parent in failing health, caring for a special needs child, fighting a personal cancer, etc. But don't hear this as an easy way to let you off the hook because I'm certain God's expectations are of higher priority than any simple recipe you or I might cook up. I find there are many people who tell me "they wish they had," and "If I'd only made the time." So, I hope this does let some off the hook who honestly have too much on their plate, and challenges others who have never seriously thought about their place on a mission team.

With that in mind, here are my top reasons that every adult should participate in an "Away" Mission adventure:

1) You'll almost certainly do more in the name of Christ and the Church in one week away than you ever would at home. Even with your good intentions, how often do you spend such concentrated time in service, worship, study, prayer, and with others working toward a common goal? This alone is a reason to be part of a mission team!

2) No, you aren't skilled enough or good enough, but go anyway and be surprised at how blessed you'll be and how you might bless others. I've found that the more diverse the team is in skills and personalities the more likely we are to be effective! How often do you minister to others? This alone is a reason to be part of a mission team!

3) There are always LOTS of excuses- I'm too young, too old, too wealthy, too poor, too busy, too weak, too.... too... too.... You get the idea! There are always excuses not to do something that might change the world or change your world; drop the excuses, make it a priority, and go for an adventure for yourself and for God. How often do you experience the heart of the gospel and faith, and seek to share that with others? This alone is a reason to be part of a mission team!

4) You will get to know members of the church and team in much deeper ways. It is impossible to "play church" when you are with a team for a week or longer, when you are thrown into work and the daily experiences, and when you and the group have all the "ups and downs" that go with a day. This is deep, enriching, challenging, and will connect you with people in such special ways that you will never look at them the same! How often do you experience such depth of relationships in adult life? This alone is a reason to be part of a mission team!

5) You will experience God in much deeper ways (especially on international missions) which will change your life and faith at home. Such an experience will deepen your prayers, your worship, your time in Scripture, and your everyday faith and life. This will be the heart of the faith in everyday, honest ways, your belief brought to life, and the fellowship of Good News which can best be experienced and lived rather than merely spoken about! How often does church really come alive like that for you? This alone is a reason to be part of a mission team!

6) At home, in your own routine, you will experience your life and faith and church, even mission, one particular way. Do an away mission experience and you are in control of very little. You are subject to others, and you must give in to the team. You are not in control of the agenda, and are intimately interconnected and interrelated to a group who you must rely upon. For many adults this is a challenge, but in it you will also likely find new spiritual and life freedom. How often are you part of such a special team which you add to and benefit from? This alone is a reason to be part of a mission team!

7) You will pick up new skills, learn new things about yourself and others, and experience all the drama of life and faith which will change everything! This is a learning, growing experience which finds you in the intersection of goals a team must accomplish, in the middle of a culture or subculture that you don't get and must learn about, and in the midst of a God at work and a people of faith trying to express God's love the best they can. How often are you in such a learning context as an adult? This alone is a reason to be part of a mission team!

This isn't a comprehensive list, though this should give you a few ideas about the importance an "away" mission can be in the life of an individual Christian and in the life of a church. Anyone of these reasons could stand alone quite powerfully, and when you add them up the vitality and difference a mission team can make are significant. I've seen this played out with teenagers, to adults up to 80 years! But don't just take my word for it. Read Scripture and see that you are to go! Talk to others who have been and see that you must go! Look at the needs in the world and look at your skills and see that someone must go!

Why shouldn't you go on an away mission trip? Only if you have nothing to give, think God can't use you, have nothing to learn, have no blessings to give or receive, and see no needs in the world! :)

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