I finally found my comfort zone during our final day of ministry. Our team worked in a rehab clinic at a hospital, which is what I do in my normal life. The patients presented with familiar issues, and without a moment’s hesitation, I knew how to help. I finally felt comfortable directing my students, too.
I am so thankful the Lord withheld this familiarity from me until the last day. I struggled with my pride each day, relinquishing more and more glory to the Lord with each humiliation. He wrestled it from my hands because it isn’t mine to take. I crave a pat on the back and public praise for a job well done. These are not reasons to go on a mission trip; I am here to serve and to make Christ known.
Ask the Next Question
During a moment of ministry, one of the students, Catherine, asked our patient if she was a Christian, and she affirmed. In the same scenario, I would breathe a sigh of relief and check that off my list. Her big, dark eyes held steady as she asked the next question, “What does that mean to you?” Instead of checking this off her evangelism to-do list, Catherine dug deeper to ensure the patient did, in fact, know Jesus as her Savior and Lord.
As a life-long resident of the Bible Belt, I operate under the assumption that most of the people around me are familiar with the gospel. It is easy to label ourselves as “Christian” without ever knowing what it means to repent and make Jesus Lord of our lives. Our morality becomes that thing which saves us.
If it were true that our goodness is enough to make us right before a holy God, Jesus’s death on the cross was superfluous. No matter how many times we pray or how often we engage in “good” behavior, we can never attain the holiness required to enter into the presence of God. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV).
This truth is a hard thing to accept. It is also a challenge to communicate this truth with the casual “Christian”–the one who claims the name without allowing Jesus to transform their life. Catherine’s willingness to enter into that uncomfortable place challenges me to ask the follow-up questions, to make sure that Christianity is more than a label.
Pray for the Pastors
After our final day of ministry, we enjoyed a meal of chicken and ribs prepared and served by local pastors. They do this in order to raise funds for the work they do in the DR. After our meal, each minister shared his testimony. Most of them opened with, “I did not grow up in a Christian home.” Christ found them in the midst of darkness. Some of them chased dreams of coming to the USA to play baseball, some able to name a team that took an interest in them. Injuries crushed their hopes. Stripped of their dreams, they found hope in Jesus. Now they spend their days and nights sharing that hope with the people of the DR.
Each asked for prayer for the work they do and for their families who are still not believers. I will pass that request on to you. Please pray for the ministry happening in the DR today. These are the men who will follow-up with those who prayed to receive Christ with us. They are the disciplers and evangelizers who continue after the short-term mission teams leave. Without them, our work would have less impact.
Did I Make a Difference?
The conversation around my table that night included reflective questions and answers. I threw one out there because I wrestled with my own answer: Where do you feel you had the most long-lasting impact? I could not point to one moment as the reason God called me to go on this mission trip. Not one OT treatment or ministry moment stood out to me as “life changing.” I am tempted to feel as if the trip would have been the same even if I hadn’t come. You really don’t want to feel so useless after spending a week as a missionary.
I struggled with this question on the plane ride home. Why did I go if no one needed me? Did I make a difference? Two thoughts cause me to lift my head when I am tempted to be discouraged.
First, I need the ambiguity to keep my pride at bay. If I had experienced a life-changing, life-saving, eternity-quaking moment, I would gladly accept all of the praise for it. I would proudly re-tell the story when I got back to the States. As it stands, I trust the Lord to use what I offered in a way that brings him glory—be it decreased pain in the weary shoulders we touched or a soul changed forever because of a prayer we prayed. Not knowing the impact I had keeps my worship focused on the Lord and off of myself.Not knowing the impact I had keeps my worship focused on the Lord and off of myself.Click To Tweet
Second, I am reminded how little is made much in the hands of Jesus. I think about the story of the boy bringing his loaves and fishes to Jesus. He didn’t have much to offer, but what he had, he willingly shared. In Jesus’s hands, that meager lunch became an epic feast.He does not ask me for more than I have, but he does ask me to bring all that I am.Click To Tweet
I bring so little with me in terms of medical know-how and evangelical suaveness, but what I have, I offer. It is not up to me to make much of my offering; this is dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit. He does not ask me for more than I have, but he does ask me to bring all that I am.
Jesus, bless my little and make it much in your kingdom for your glory.
If you ever have the opportunity to go on a short-term mission trip, please prayerfully consider going. You may feel as if you have nothing to offer, but God will use what you have. Not only that, your heart and soul will be forever changed by the experience. (Read more about the changes I experienced on day 1, day 2, and day 3.)
Also, look at those sweet faces in the top photo (RSS and email users, click through to the post)! Those are the five OT students and Erin, our big-hearted COTA. These girls have the biggest hearts, sweetest smiles, and a bright future!