A journey overseas--how strange that just crossing international borders can make you feel more like you are "on mission for God." Home is so mundane, so lackluster, we excuse ourselves for being less than our "best Christian self" at home. After all, it's just home. Everybody knows you. Everything is familiar. You don't feel like being super spiritual; you just want to be yourself. But when you go away, especially if it's far, far away, a place you need a passport and a plane ride to get to, then suddenly you kick into high gear and say to God, "Whoa, here I am! You can use me now!" It's as if we think we suddenly pop onto God's radar screen when we show up in another country and then just as suddenly pop off of it when we arrive back home.
Anyway, this was more or less my mentality for my first few mission trips, even though all along, I would have looked you in the eye and said to you, "No, I know that you're just as much a missionary at home as you are on the field, and going overseas doesn't make you a missionary." Nevertheless, I still felt like I could label myself as a missionary just because I went on a trip labeled a "mission" trip. Now I look back and say, "You know, I was really nothing more than a Christian tourist."
It's easy to be hard on myself now, after the fact. If I think back to who I was then, I realize that I was acting as honestly and consistently as I knew how. I didn't see the things I now see--I couldn't, in fact, because it took going through these experiences in order to learn the lesson. I thank God for the training ground that He put me though.
But read through the journal entries of any of my early mission trips, and see what stands out to you. What was my emphasis?
• The spirit of adventure
• Exotic sights, smells, and tastes
• Interesting cultural customs that were different from my own
• Amazing buildings and different architecture
• Things that struck me as funny or quaint, like donkeys walking down the city street
• What I bought and what I wanted to buy
• Language barrier issues
What was noticeably absent from my journal?
• Great and unshakable grief that the glory of God was not being uplifted in this culture
• Determination to be creative and skillful about getting the message out to people
• Massive dedication to prayer to see God move mightily
• Any indication that my heart was touched even a little by the eternal destiny of the people I saw
These things were not a major part of my life at home before the mission trip, so it's no surprise that I didn't magically obtain them by breathing exotic, foreign air. The saying does hold true: "You're just as much a missionary at home as you are on the field, and going overseas doesn't make you a missionary." So considering that I was not living as a missionary at home during this period, I was equally not one when I went overseas. I was just a well-meaning tourist. And I had a cool "M" word to tack onto the front of my trip.
But God wasn't finished with me yet, and He used all these experiences to bring me closer and closer to the realities He wanted to teach me.
This post is part of the series My Journey Into Missions.
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