Mission trips were a formative part of my teenage years, feeding my faith and reminding me in tangible ways that the call to missions is not an opt in one for the believer. One thing that has saddened me over the years is what I perceive in the church as a resignation to the idea that very, very few will actually GO. There seems to be such a resignation to the unlikeliness of normal Christians to be called into missions that the idea and the need for workers is barely presented beyond something to have a vague awareness of, and maybe possibly give to financially (which, don’t get me wrong, is completely essential). While it is true that many more are called to pray and give than to go long term or possibly far away, the apparent lack of urgency, particularly among people of the reformed theological persuasion (my own), is disconcerting. Are we possibly throwing the numbers by not appropriately issuing calls and bringing the urgent and real physical and spiritual needs of the world into sharper focus for the people of God through things like missions conferences, prayer initiatives, short term missions trips, and education about the conditions around the world in general? I have noticed this fairly uncontested apathy with regards to calls to mission primarily in wealthier areas of the country where it seems to be a foregone conclusion that one would be foolish to give up the life they may have worked decades to create or to make any decision that doesn’t seem to enhance a perfectly balanced college resume for their children.
I think perhaps a reason for this is that where there is great material wealth, we can easily anesthetize our utter dependence upon God. We don’t feel needy or inadequate much of the time. More often we feel self-satisfied that since we work so hard, we deserve all that we have (and perhaps more). This mindset seeps into our hearts far more easily than most of us care to admit.
Short term missions are an important way to bring both the needs of the world and our own dependence upon grace into focus. (And, here’s a truth bomb: they are not just “good for the kids.”) They also remind us of the reality that we are “not our own,” and prime our hearts for the possibility that God, at any time, could put a call on our lives that makes no sense in the eyes of the world, but perfect sense in God’s economy.