So you did it and now you are finally back home. You left your comfort zone and ventured out to preach the gospel and serve the poor in a foreign land. The worn and withered hands and blistered feet of the poor have left a permanent mark on your heart and mind. The adrenaline rush of journeying from small town to small town preaching the gospel has reignited a spiritual corner of your soul that you thought was dead long ago. And now you find yourself back into the day-to-day mundane of reality in America. What in the world did I just experience and how does this relate to my life as a whole? what do I do now?
My family and I have been blessed to lead several short-term mission trips in the last couple of years and Lacy and I would like to offer a few simple steps on returning back home and making the most of your short-term mission experience.
First things first
What you experienced was real and was indeed part of the life of the Church. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. In fact what you experienced is the very lifeblood of the church- the very mission of the Church. The church exists to evangelize, and you just spent an uninterrupted period of time doing so. Jesus himself commands us to Go into the WHOLE world and preach the gospel and you did just that (emphasis mine). Too often we settle and buy into the lie that Jesus only wants us to preach the gospel and make disciples in our own backyard. The sad reality is that lines like these are never found in the gospel. Indeed, we need to make disciples in our homes and neighborhoods, but we also need to open our ears anew to Jesus’ words in the great commission: Go into the whole world!
If we all just stayed in our own backyards making disciples then the close to three billion people in this world who do not know Jesus will not receive the gospel of Christ. How devastating. If we all just stayed in our own backyards making disciples then underserved countries with little resources in their churches will dry up and falter. Most churches in the world do not have an excess of resources for various ministries. Where we live in rural Central America there are two priests in charge of over 50 churches. This is not a rare reality across the world. We have so many resources in our American Churches while so many churches across the world have so little. When you Go you will always bless those you serve as long as you preach the gospel wholeheartedly in season and out of season.
Can my presence there really make a difference?
Once while in Mexico my wife and I learned that she had miscarried. It was a tear-filled and exhausting day. We were scheduled to go out into one of the small surrounding villages that night to share testimonies and preach the gospel; namely, my wife was set to share a teaching that night. She spent most of the day resting and mourning and trying to decide whether or not she would stay back that evening or go to the village. Something deep within her told her she needed to go and preach the gospel as she had planned, and so we went. As Lacy finished sharing, a lady in the back of the old, dark church in the middle of the Mexican desert stood up and joyfully exclaimed “because of your testimony I now believe in Jesus!”
Sometimes the things we take for granted, a simple testimony or a song in church are the very things people in the developing world are thirsting for. Testimonies are rarely shared in forgotten villages of the developing world, so never doubt the power of your witness among these people. YES, your presence can and will make a great difference.
Should I stay or should I go?
“I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the churches energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer of Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” – Pope Saint John Paul the Great (RM 3)
A question I often field is “well surely God doesn’t want all of us to become foreign missionaries does he?” To which I often reply, “Well why not?”
Three years ago in my hometown of Lafayette , LA we experienced a horrendous flood, whereby thousands of people lost their homes and possessions. Quickly everyone sprung into action helping their neighbor out and bringing hope into an otherwise abysmal situation. It was a thing of beauty. Our goal was to reach every single person who was in need of help. But, imagine for a second if we wandered upon a flooded neighborhood with 100 flooded homes and we only helped the first 10 we could reach; completely ignoring the remaining 90 families in need…No one in their right mind would allow this to happen.
So, how and why can we be content with this happening in our world when it comes to spreading the gospel? We have literally billions of people who have never heard the gospel, yet often we take no personal consideration in bringing the good news to them. So, should we all be foreign missionaries? Probably not. Are more of us called to be foreign missionaries? Absolutely! We are also all called to prayerfully consider and listen to the voice of God in regards to obeying the great commission to go and make disciples of the whole world. This is after all a command for all Christians directly from the mouth of Jesus himself. Remember that by virtue of our baptism we are all called to be missionary disciples.
I would like to offer a few practical steps moving forward in the weeks just after a short-term mission trip:
– Spend at least 30 minutes in prayer with the gospels. Quiet, uninterrupted time in scripture is irreplaceable. this is where and when God will speak and we have the opportunity to listen and obey.
-In prayer don’t be afraid to ask questions and make statements like “Holy spirit, command me to do your holy will” and “Lord, what do you want to make of this experience in my life?” and “Lord, are you calling me to take the gospel to other nations?”
-Frequent the sacraments as often as possible (namely reconciliation and the Eucharist).
-Find sincere opportunities to pray in the holy spirit with other people.
-Find ways to preach the gospel and serve the poor in your hometown.
-Consider reading the following books: Mission of the Redeemer by Pope John Paul II, Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis, Happy Are You Poor by Fr. Thomas Dubay, Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, Radical by David Platt, Go You Are Sent by Genie Summers
Finally, if you sense God is calling you into full time missions, count your blessings, find a solid spiritual director who is in tune with the church’s mission to evangelize, and GO!!! Life is short and is passing us by each day. Now is the time to make disciples of all nations.
If you are interested in attending a short-term mission trip, please visit the following http://www.familymissionscompany.com/mission-trips or email me for discussion or questions.