Writing your life into a blog is quite intimidating.
I worry that what I write will be misread from what I actually meant. Or that what I write will be simply wrong. I’m prone to be swayed by my current surroundings, my current influences, and my current concerns, which in essence promises foolish commentary. This is heightened by my lack of experience, immaturity, and human nature.
Sometimes I am tempted to take a blogging hiatus. I get overwhelmed. I become fearful that my foolish opinions or misperceptions of these opinions that could offend someone, mislead someone, or embarrass me.
And then I write again. But I feel required to warn you.
I’m fearful that we don’t help our community enough.
We have tried to be wise. We have established boundaries: the children can play outside, but they know the rules not to come inside; we close our gate when we leave. We try not to help all the time, but be available to help with medical needs and food.
Often when we tell people that we help with the medical expenses, they are openly skeptical that we are being taken advantage of. If we mention that we help with this or that, we are challenged with long-term development strategies and hindrances.
I do worry about this, primarily because I love them, and I want what is best for them. I don’t want to hinder development or growth. I’m not so worried at being taken advantage of. Perhaps because I do have more wealth than they will ever know.
But more than anything, I worry that we are letting the hungry go hungry and the thirsty remain in their thirst. I look at Matthew 25:31-46, and I worry that in turning away a neighbor–telling the kids they can’t come inside or not providing food–I have turned away Christ. I am much more fearful that in the name of “protecting our boundaries,” we have not truly welcomed them in love. I’m fearful of living in a castle right beside their homelessness, or cherishing fresh oven-baked bread right beside their hunger. And when the kids ask for another drink of water from the oh-so-fun water cooler–and I’m exhausted of bringing it to them day after day–that in saying no this time, I’m turning away Christ.
What if I turned away Christ in the name of sustainability, development, healthy boundaries, and logic?
Further, the horrible human side of me wants you–the reader, the listener, the responder–to put this to rest. To tell me that I am doing something; that I have made an impact in the lives of these children and this community! To tell me that I am doing enough.
That is a very dangerous word: enough.
But really, you don’t know. I don’t know. The sheep didn’t know they were sheep, and the goats didn’t know they were goats.
And herein lies a problem I have with “missions”: there is disconnect between “overseas mission work” and the Church. To be overseas, serving the people, feeding the hungry: it’s over-glorified. And really, it’s no different to the calling we have all received, it’s simply in a foreign setting.
We have a really wonderful home church in Mae Sot, but it is sometimes difficult to find enough speakers and musicians to lead each week. When teams or churches are visiting on short-term trips, they are often invited to speak or lead worship. And almost inevitably, guest speakers always begin with something along the lines of, “I was really intimidated to come today and speak to a group of missionaries…” or “What do I say to a group of missionaries on the front lines?”
I specifically remember one sermon where an American pastor kept referring to us–separating out “the missionaries”–as the “hands and feet.” When we left, Stephen vented, “Doesn’t he realize that he is the hands and feet, too? We left America in his hands!”
When the Church over-glorifies overseas missions, I think there are significant negative effects. For one, it disconnects the Church overseas from the Church in the West, when really, the same Kingdom is moving forward and the same ailments plague us all. From my perspective, I would rather hear the Church communicate that they are equally a part of this. It seems more encouraging to feel that we are on the same team, with the same vision, facing the same broken world.
I think over-glorified missions also fuels pride in overseas circles. And I think it does reckless damage to interpersonal relationships and ministries around the world. It seems that church is fueling it, and Satan has seized the opportunity.
Each of us faces the hungry, thirsty, and homeless each and every day. Equally, each of us will be surprised at the sheep chosen, and perhaps questioning when we turned Him away.