What could we possibly do THERE that doesn’t need doing HERE? It is a question we have heard from some of you, both before and after our journey this past August to Kosice, Slovakia.
More to the point, aren’t the needs of our fellow Richmonders more relevant to our church and worthy of our resources than spending money to travel half a world away?
The answer – at least from my vantage point – is “no.”
The problem is not whether the needs of our immediate neighbors here are more deserving of our time than those of another nation. The problem is that we try to rank worthiness of our time in the first place, on our terms, and deciding who is more worthy of our care.
When we do that, aren’t we leaving out someone very important? Yep. You guessed it. God.
When God asks for us to glorify Him, He gives us many scriptural instructions as to how. One thing I’m pretty sure you won’t find in scripture, however, is God, Christ, or the many prophets commanding us to specifically help one deserving person over another deserving person solely because they are closer to us on the map.
Quite the contrary, the book of Acts instructs us through Jesus’ words that those filled with the Holy Spirit are to witness in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. If nothing else, shouldn’t this command clarify without a doubt that Slovakia needs are as important TO GOD as Midlothian needs?
Our exploratory trip to work with Jon and Tanya Parks, our church-sponsored missionaries, was a success beyond measure in identifying what the essence of mission is. It is about changing hearts. And the biggest heart change was in us, those who went. We went to serve, yet we were the ones who were fed.
What we learned there simply can not be found in a book. What we learned there can not be summed up in a video. The relationships we developed, both with the Parks and the Roma people, would not be possible via Skype or by “friending” one another on Facebook.
What the trip DID do reaches far beyond those eight days, six time zones away. It significantly impacted those of us who were there, in a way that needs to be shared – and repeated by others in our church.
Just as the scales fell from Paul’s eyes after being struck blind, our eyes were opened to the needs around us, perhaps because we were strangers in a strange land. The ordinary indifference that is bred through familiarity was gone.
Learning about the Roma people there now allows us to better see our own Roma people here. Those without jobs. Those without homes. Those with any number of ailments, issues, and challenges that, before our visit to Slovakia were invisible, now we see clearly before us. We not only see them, we now love them too.
In other words, without mission, near AND far, we might not fully find the heart that God wants us to have for others right here at home.
We should rightly be concerned about the value of our mission resources, now more than ever. But shouldn’t we also keep a close eye on what those resources are working to achieve? When a resource is being used to accomplish what God has commanded, isn’t that worth celebrating?
Our church is one in transition. And we will likely learn about the many ways in which we differ, whether they be big or small issues. But MISSION...whether it be the Clinic, Owsley, CARITAS or Slovakia, always shows us the ways in which we are all the same in Christ.
This is a message we need, now more than ever. Without mission, what is the purpose of this church?
“Being the presence of Christ” includes the words “being present.” It is the only way that we can understand fully what our call from God really is. It is one that I think is at the heart of this church in the years ahead.
So what will our mission be? Where will our missions lead?
Should we focus more on CARITAS? Or on the Clinic? Or Owsley County? Or Morningside? Or Hyaets? Or Slovakia?
Join us in the missions of our church, near and far, and learn for yourself that the answer to all of these is an enthusiastic “YES!”.
- Dave Anderson