The Ongoing Mission

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “Foreign Missionairies.”

No neat tidy essay this week. This is a topic I’m very much in the process of rethinking, so I don’t have any real answers, just questions.

And, for the actual topic, “foreign missionaries,” I’m for ’em. I don’t even care if it’s talking missionaries to foreign countries, or missionaries who are themselves foreigners, I’m all for it.

But lately what I’ve been dealing with is less about career missionaries, and more about missions themselves. Not those who go do this for a living, but us ordinary schlubs who go on mission trips.

I’ve been on two mission trips, both in high school, both elsewhere in the states. One of those was part of something that happened while I was in Indianola that’s had a lasting impact on how I view missions. On my second mission trip, I went with my church from Huntsville to Jamestown, NY. While I was in Indianola, a church there hosted a mission trip from New York. Another church sent a mission team to central America. All we needed was for a central American team to send a mission team to Huntsville, and we could close the loop. But, really, why? Why was Indianola both sending and receiving missionaries? Why couldn’t the people in Indianola who wanted to do something help the people there who needed help? Why did they leave the country and leave their neighbors to seek help from the other side of the nation? And why did people in New York drive down to Mississippi, when their neighbors were having to get help from Alabamans?

I’m all for missions, but not at the neglect of taking care of your neighbors. Get your own house in order, then worry about other people.

So that’s been part of my approach to missions.

Another part of my thought process — I believe in missions. I believe it’s part of the mandate of the church. I don’t believe that it’s part of the mandate of every individual in the church. Some people will tell you that everybody needs to go on a mission trip, but I’m not sure that I buy it. We all have different roles. We all have different gifts. Anybody that takes a one-size-fits-all approach to anything raises red flags.

But, the counter-argument to that is that missions transcends that. Yes, everyone has different gifts and roles. But missions is not one of those roles, it’s an opportunity to manifest those gifts and roles. There’s a place for everyone to use what they bring to the table. Perhaps.

I’ve also had the debate about whether it should be a calling. I’ve leaned toward, you don’t go unless you personally are called to. A friend says you should go unless you personally are supposed to not. And there’s a debate about why you should go — some say it’s selfish to go for the experience, others say the experience should be the main thing you get out of it.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, there’s a chance that I’ll be going on a mission trip to Costa Rica before the end of the year. So I may have to have answers to those issues that I can live with by then. I’m not really worrying about it; I don’t feel the need to have it all figured out, I just need to know what I’m supposed to do.

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