Mission trips…service projects…hmmm.
I have had years of involvement in various trips, efforts, initiatives…and my thoughts and beliefs about them continue to grow and evolve with each experience. A dear friend is sending her sweet 18 year old on her first mission trip to Honduras in a few weeks…so this is for you Bailey!
Sitting in a workshop today at the Recharge conference, Dr. Elton from Luther Seminary encouraged me to think of mission work as a combination of “action and attitude.” And I completely agree.
The idea of missions or service involves action. We must put our hands and feet to work and step out of our comfort zone in action. So often we jump on board and participate out of a sense of responsibility, or maybe even by default. I think that some of the first ways that I began to experience acts of service occurred simply because I joined in with the “projects” available or signed up to take a “trip” that was being offered…it had nothing to do with a “calling” or a deep desire of the heart. For example, I participated in making meals at Feed My Starving Children and cleaning up debris following the flooding in southern Minnesota…did I have a huge passion about these needs? Probs not. But I acted.
Action PLUS attitude is where the real work begins. In doing those small acts of service, I began to develop a heart for others…a desire to seek ways to demonstrate the love of God in ALL of my actions. I began to see that serving does not occur only in the completion of a Service Project…or on a weeklong Mission Trip…but rather that serving is a lifestyle.
It is about having an open heart.
It is about looking for opportunities.
It is about being obedient to God’s calling.
It is about listening and building relationships.
Years and years ago, I traveled with a group of teens as a chaperone to work within impoverished neighborhoods in Chicago for a week, supporting children’s programming, serving in soup kitchens, and experiencing the needs of the individuals we met. As our team cooked, cleaned and served one evening, I spent much of my time chatting with the folks being fed. Pretty sure that those conversations blessed me more than the bowl of soup blessed them.
This serving lifestyle ought to be focused on discerning the needs of others and doing our best to meet them. It should NOT be about “fixing others.” Too often, I see groups of well-intentioned people heading across town or to the other side of the world, on a mission to “fix” or “improve” without even considering the needs or the receiver.
When I first traveled to Haiti, I had no idea what I would be doing. My intention was to go…to observe and learn…and to see how I could fit into their little corner of the world. I talked to people, read blogs, powered through books…in fact I am still reading, listening and observing. It is a constant. My heart is open, and I seek next steps in obedience to the calling that I feel comes from God.
Mission work occurs every day. It can be our attitude in our work life. It can be meeting a need in our family or our neighborhood. It can be the use of our time, talent and finances. It can be committing to a lifetime of bible translation in Tanzania (shout out to my dear friends that have accepted that calling!) There needs to be a willingness to act and an intentionality to see the needs.
Serving really is a lifestyle….I continue to learn and grow and do my best to serve.
p.s. Blessings to you sweet Bailey on your upcoming trip…go and serve. Watch to see how your life will be changed, as your attitude to serve simply becomes the way you choose to live.. Hugs to you!