God is in Missions
by Nathan Decker
“Thank you, God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough.“
– Garrison Keillor
The first time I met Sam Nesmith he handed me a bucket filled with a rough mixture of gravel and Haitian concrete mix. “Here you go,” he laughed, “It’s good for you!” By the end of the day we had poured a floor in a class room one bucket at a time. The mix had slopped up and down my bib overalls so thick that when I took them off they stood up on their own. Sam’s words were truth. Mission work is good for us.
There was a time I naively thought that spending thousands of dollars on airfare and supplies to build something in another part of the world was the most efficient way to do things. Several trips later, I know we are not in the 1800’s mission movement any longer. Mission work today is less about building schools and churches and more about building relationships and discipleship.
The reality is that we could send the money, hire professionals, and get the job done more efficiently. Unfortunately this sets up a relationship of dependency. We send UMVIM teams to create partnerships where each party provides what they can and we work together. Sure, we’re not professionals – and we may not know the Cambodian way of painting a fence post or the North Carolina way of wiring a house – but we can learn. More than that, we can learn from our Christian sisters and brothers in other lands how they are experiencing God. I may have brought a hammer and a saw to give away in Haiti, but I learned a lesson from a little boy about sharing that I’ll never forget. I may have taught lessons on leadership to pastors in Cambodia, but I’ll never forget the joy and excitement of a growing young church that they shared with me.
Mission trips are not just about reaching out to make disciples in a far off land. When I go on a mission trip, I’m learning how to be a better disciple, too. Whether it is when Sam shared a Richard Foster devotional book with me or when we had deep conversation about where God is calling us to go next in the mission – the Spirit is at work. Even when in a worship service preached in a tongue I couldn’t understand but in a heart I felt moved.
We go on missions to encourage young growing churches. We go on missions to develop relationships and partnerships. We go on missions to make and be better disciples. We go on mission trips because God is in missions. “Here you go, it’s good for you.”
“So here’s what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it.”
– 2 Corinthians 8:10-11 The Message