Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people… Galatians 6:9-10
This week has been filled with an array of emotions. Some have been great like when something really cool happened to one of our children at school. Some have been really low as we mourn the loss of a dear friend.
This friend was one of a kind. He lived an exceptional life of service to the Lord and was an inspiration to many. Although he was elderly, he seemed timeless to me. He was a staple at church and in his faith. The world has lost a godly man.
The night before his celebration of life service, I sat in a room by myself and
cried wept. My heart spilled tears down my cheeks over the thought of never praying with, or enjoying the conversation of, this man again this side of heaven. He was like a grandfather to me.
On the day of his service, I squandered my time, procrastinating the inevitable shower I needed. I delayed his service as long as possible, which nearly made me miss it. I just couldn’t bring myself to get ready and go. Going means goodbye – and I didn’t want to say goodbye to him.
I really dreaded going. I’ve buried many people I love, and I loved this man. Everyone did. He was family to my family. My heart is broken.
I expected the service to run its course, then my oldest child and I would leave and muster the energy to return to our normal grind – though normal is the last thing that the day felt like. However, one story the pastor shared about our friend will always stick with me…
He and our friend have gone to the Caribbean with a team of men from our church for the last 20 years to build all kinds of structures for churches there. I admire their tenacity in their golden years to continue such physically laborious work. He said that one year many years ago, our friend (in his 60′s at the time) spent the days of the mission trip going house-to-house, all alone, evangelizing to everyone he met. When he returned to their base camp, our pastor noticed his pants were torn and knees scraped and bloody.
What happened to you? he asked.
Oh, well I was knocking on doors up that mountain and fell down it. I rolled all the way down the mountain, he replied. They had lunch, then he went right back out to the streets and continued knocking. He was unstoppable for Christ.
As much as I want to be surprised at this story, I’m not. This was who he was. Faithful to the task at hand for the Gospel whether in the States, in the Caribbean, or in the other parts of the world that he traveled.
Hearing about these men’s mission trips made me think about this upcoming one for our family. When the service was over, this year’s mission trip was heavy on my mind – as well as thoughts of my dear friend.
A special friend from our Kenya trip came over to me and offered a smile. I was so glad to see her. She and her husband are mission mentors to me. They are shining examples of what we hope Bruce’s and my retirement years will look like (Lord willing) – going anywhere God leads them to for the cause of Christ.
She speaks with her heart, so I told her what was on my mind – looking for a word of comfort or encouragement.
I said to her, How am I going to go to this place and help these fragile orphans for 13 days? How does one go for just 13 days? It’s like, Hi – nice to meet you…then Bye – have a nice life! How do I do that? These babies and children in their medical crises have NO ONE coming for them!!! They don’t get to go home and receive love and care from a mom and dad. They don’t have sisters and brothers to support them and help them. They are alone. How does my nurturing mother’s heart do this for just 13 short days? God hasn’t put it on our hearts to adopt any children at this point, so isn’t it cruel to make connections with these precious children then leave? How am I going to ever go?
She smiled her comforting smile and said, When our friend that we mourn today was in the Caribbean on one of their trips, he led a man to Christ. Remember, the pastor in his eulogy told us that this man was originally from India and eventually traveled back to his homeland. There in India, he began to spread the Gospel. We know that at least 5,000 people have accepted Christ, and 20 Christian libraries have begun. We’ll never know the ripple effect of how many people’s lives have been changed because our friend shared the Gospel with just one person on one trip. Sometimes, we are only called for 13 days. God takes it from there. Like our friend, while you are on mission, give it everything. Give yourself completely to the task – even if it is to just one. This is all the time God is giving you to be there. Use it wisely.
As her tender eyes pierced mine, she spoke words that came straight from the throne room. It was exactly what I needed to hear. I needed to hear there is purpose in the lifetime missionaries that call a foreign land home, but there is also purpose in just 13 days.
This short conversation made a huge impact on me because it reminded me that it really is about God’s plan – not mine. The nurturer in me wants to fix the needs of the orphans. The Savior-complex in me wants to give them their happily ever efter. The realist in me knows I can’t no matter how long I stay there or the resources I could spend. The hard fact is that the problem is bigger than me. The Truth, however, is that their problems are not too big for God. So where I want to scoop these little ones up in my arms and hold them until everything is better – no matter how long it takes – God has only given us 13 days to hold them. But, these precious children are never out of His grasp. He knows them deeper more intimately than I ever will. He knows their pain, their needs, their dreams and their hearts inside and out. Their pain is His pain. Their lives are His passion. His love overflows.
I need to remember my place in missions. It isn’t for me to go and be the hero who swoops in and saves the day. It is to introduce them to the one, true Savior through being the hands and feet in whatever manner He calls me to. It is hard to think we can make any difference in 2 weeks. However, our friend is still changing India, even after his death, from just one conversation.
It is all for God’s glory and fame. Missions is all about God and what Christ did to reconcile us to God the Father as well as meeting very real and basic needs of those we are sent to. But, I love that He is the God of details in that He doesn’t forget about the goer and how missions impacts them. I’m not kidding when I’ve told people this trip may break my heart in two. I watch tears well up in friends’ eyes when I tell them about what we are walking into with this trip – my heart feels the same. But, God in His faithfulness will be with us to put Humpty Dumpty back together again for the 1,000th time if need be.
Clearly the focus of missions is who we are going to. However, the enemy tries to come in the back door and discourage me to the point of not going. What difference can one person really make? What help do you really think you’ll be there? Come on, you know you’re not equipped for this job – who are you kidding? Admit it, you’re not strong enough for this assignment. You know you won’t be able to handle the fact that you can’t make everything better. It’s just 13 lousy days. What can radically change in that short time? You’re only going to get kids attached to you, and then you will leave them just like everyone else. How is that helping?
To that I answer with Scripture – And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. ~ John 14:16-18
Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. ~ Matthew 28:20
So where we may be able to hold and rock and love on these children, we are finite and our help is finite. But, the Trinity is eternal and will always be with those who call Jesus Lord. More than a band-aid or a hug or a smile, we long to introduce them to the Healer.
Because of the inspirational life of our dear friend, and the encouraging words of my fellow mission traveler, I am pumped now more than ever to get there and get started. God has shown me I am released from guilt over what I can’t control, but I have total freedom in Christ to do His work as He provides the opportunities. The fact is, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, so He calls us to make the most of every day whether it’s one hour, 13 days, or decades in service for Him.
The lie that 13 days can’t make a difference has been forever re-written in my heart because of one conversation in the Caribbean that is still changing India and beyond. The thought of even one child grasping the love of Jesus and the faithfulness of God to make a difference right in their own community excites me like never before!
I like how our pastor often says in his sermons regarding evangelizing, discipling, and sharing God’s love – Go get ‘em. That’s exactly what we intend to do on this mission as we work to do it here at home.
May my mission friend’s words be a charge to us all – Give everything we have to the task for the time we are granted. Spend our time wisely today. After all, while bearing the sobering reality of the loss of our friend, I am reminded that today is, indeed, all we have.