Once attending church turned into a healthy habit instead of “if I woke up on time.” I soon bumped into a husband and wife missionary team. Inadvertently I plopped into an empty seat at their lunch table. As they shared intriguing stories about their travels, the unfamiliar culture and strange foods caught my attention.
While I was deeply interested in listening to their adventures, I vividly remember my heart’s response. Meandering through my church’s parking lot afterwards, I thought, “There is no way I’m eating chunky turtle soup! God, you know I love you, but please don’t ask me to do that.”
Thinking back to my reaction when my husband cooked a rainbow trout over the campfire, I shuddered. My lips pinched as I absolutely refused to eat anything with the head, eyeballs, and fins intact. No, I don’t think I’m the type of person to sign up for a mission trip.
As my Ford Taurus bumped along the road towards home, I further argued my point with God. Plenty of people here in our local community need a helping hand. I don’t need a passport to be a missionary.
Besides my two elementary age sons bounce non-stop like Newton’s cradle. Grandma falls asleep on the couch by late afternoon. A mission trip just seemed ludicrous if my only option is to leave them in her care. Brushing the persistent thought away, I firmly decided to wait until my boys grow older. Then we will travel together.
Over the next few years my family’s work and school schedules flooded over me like a relentless storm. Other than serving at children’s church and Vacation Bible School, any iterant thought of mission work disappeared beneath the waves.
As I reflect on my earlier conversation with God, I remind myself of an unruly kindergartner. While I should have heard the message of loving others, I twisted the focus to ME. I desired to love God sincerely, so I willingly listened. However my heart was too teeny to contain the full measure of His love. Demonstrating my love for Him without His grace was physically impossible.
By the time my sons were in middle school our conversation about a mission trip went something like this: “Let me get this straight? You want ME to WORK to raise $500 for a mission trip? Then for a whole week I’ll be working for FREE? No thanks, Mom. I’ll pass.” Although I was disappointed by their first response, I understood they were young and believed with time they would have a change of heart.
Understanding their thoughts because they mirrored my own, I finally obeyed the Lord’s insistent pull on my heart. I demonstrated my love for Him by signing up for my first mission trip. Sadly I admit my hand still somewhat reluctantly filled out the paperwork. Envisioning my misplaced packet at the bottom of a huge stack of qualified applicants, I thought maybe they won’t even pick me to go. Perhaps, I’m not energetic enough to keep up with the hectic pace. I’m not even a good conversationalist. How in the world can I talk to complete strangers on a prayer walk? Doubts attacked my mind, but I trusted God to calm my heart.
Weeks passed before a friend confided she hoped to be sent to Paraguay. After listening to the details of a medical mission and a teaching project in South America, my heart jumped at the prospect of being chosen for THAT trip. I couldn’t help but break out a huge toothy smile when I discovered my assignment to visit Detroit. I literally laughed out loud as I imagined God’s gentle whisper, “After all plenty of people in America need a helping hand. You don’t need a passport to be a missionary.”
As I met with my team for the first time, I sat next to a young mother. She calmly explains how her two pre-school age daughters will stay behind with close friends. My heart painfully pounds in my chest as I ponder her decision. The same opportunity was laid before her and she grasped His hand. As I ponder the effects of her temporary absence on her daughters, I rationalize she is clearly demonstrating obedience. Her sweet girls will grow up watching their mother show His love for others.
Wondering how my sons’ lives might have been shaped differently if I entered mission work earlier, I suddenly realized I previously turned away from an enormous blessing. God desired for me to say, “Yes!” the first time he asked. My eyes water with tears as the missed blessing reveals itself.
If I had signed up for a mission trip earlier, then I probably would have been part of my son’s previous Detroit mission trips. If I had been part of my son’s previous Detroit mission trips, I may have worked side by side with him in a ministry that taught him compassion. If I had worked side by side with him in a ministry that taught him compassion, my entire family may have grown together spiritually.
After watching how mission work encouraged my son’s spiritual growth, I’m so thankful God waited patiently to transform me into His disciple.
A radiant smile beams on my face as the verse Matthew 22:37 – 39 springs to mind. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love your neighbor as yourself.” A gentle laugh burst forth as I finally made the connection between the two commands. If you love the LORD completely, then you will naturally love His children by carrying out his commands.
So after all this time, I can finally lean back in my comfy chair and chuckle. The Lord had clearly told me to go on a mission trip, but He never mentioned anything about eating chunky turtle soup! That was ALL ME.
So, what’s holding you back from grasping His hand and going on a mission trip? Whatever it is, ask the LORD to keep your eyes focused on Him as you battle your fears. Trust in him to overcome your fears and develop the desire in you to give. After all there are numerous people in America who need more than a helping hand, they need God. And God desires to move through you!