I hear this question often and the answer is ever-changing. But, what I was reminded of on this last trip is that we do missions for the same reason we attend church, to refresh, to reflect and to refocus on what our priorities should be. The big difference for me, is that while on mission, the distractions of my life are so apparent and inconsequential. At church, we can become sidetracked in the rest of our day, our upcoming week or the pressures of our life that follow us into the building. We can neglect to fully submit ourselves to the praise and worship of The Lord. Yet, ideally, we should leave fellowship, regenerated and filled with the Spirit of God because He was our focus. Thankfully, this does happen on many occasions, but not always.
On a mission trip, in serving others to serve The Lord, His presence is palpable. When surrounded by poverty and despair, thankfulness is overflowing, His grace & love so unmistakeable, it is hard not to appreciate the peace. It is also more clearly evident when we fall into the trappings of absurdity that encompass our own lives. My bills, my busy schedule, the difficulties that embody too much of my consciousness pale so vastly in the face of true hardship that is met with joyfulness and humility. The extremes of life bring us back into perspective of who we are and who He is. But, unlike the passing moments or fleeting hours of church, missions root us more securely in that place of holiness because it binds us to relationships, to nations and to experiences that cannot be manufactured in First world nations.
Today, my heart is overflowing with emotions for the people of Rwanda, as their country is on the edge of uncertainty, yet again. I have no doubt that I was called to be in Rwanda just last week for a purpose. Although I am thankful that the rest of our team and some of our new friends are out of immediate danger, I am certain that God's plan was perfect in each aspect of its orchestration. We didn't get out, luckily, just in time. We were not just fortunate to have been there prior to this crisis. We were exactly where we were supposed to be, doing our Father's will, in His perfect timing. Our steps are not random, our paths are not arbitrary. He has a perfect plan that always is good and for His glory. My path was never meant to be about me - only Him. This journey beautifully illustrates that.
The amazing brothers and sisters we served with and ministered to, left indelible imprints on our hearts. The children we loved and got to know, now permeate every other thought we have. This is not atypical for someone returning from a mission trip. What is different is the magnitude of circumstances that now surround the nation and the people that we have grown to love.
News stories and web blasts now have very specific implications associated with them. Questions arise with true concern and not morbid curiosity. Words like rebels, refugees and evacuees do not refer to a general population of people but to the faces of friends, to those we held, prayed with and shared part of our lives with, only a few days ago. From those concerns, questions and fearfulness comes a level of supplication through prayer that is deeper, more meaningful and more focused than I am capable of without that personal connection. Scripture tells us to pray for others. It also tells us that the Holy Spirit will lead us to what to pray when we are unsure. Prayer is always good. But, for me, I am always brought to my knees more swiftly, more heartfelt and more frequently when the people of the world that I am praying for exist in my little world. That ONLY happens on a vast scale through mission.
As I reflect on my time in Rwanda, I cannot help but refocus my attention to what is important in my life here. I cannot help but be refreshed by the blessings that I witnessed and received, the redemption so evident and the overwhelming gratitude to a Father who would allow me to be a part of any of it. I am thankful for the raw emotions that swirl in my head and my heart for a people that a few months ago, were only a dot on a map. I am grateful for the burden to advocate for children, without parents, whose hands I held and heads I kissed. I am joyful to be able to share the stories of courageous young men, who overcame adversities beyond my comprehension. These are all reasons why I go on mission. But, most of all, I go on mission, even to the parts of the world where my safety is uncertain because I am called to obey and in that obedience, I am exactly where The Lord desires for me to be.