It is ironic but often the most challenging part of short-term missions is not the going, or the culture- but the returning. It is so hard to express all that one has seen. Seeing poverty changes a worldview. Watching God at work in impossible situations changes one’s understanding of Him. Being used by God opens up realms of possibilities never before thought of by the individual. It is amazing how simply leaving a comfort zone can completely change a life –that starts a fire.
A fire that burns and refines- leaving the believer feeling the depth of what they are: a new creation. Eternal results. Salvations. Baptisms! DISCIPLESHIP! In short the goer “the missionary” is changed by what they experienced. And than of course the inevitable happens- planes are boarded, tears are shed, and everyone returns home.
At home, their fire still burns- their memories are fresh, names, and faces, and the stories attached have not begun to fade yet. They enter the organized chaos of America with a determined resolution to remain changed. Eventually though what was a luxury this summer becomes once again a necessity. The memories of the trip become just that, memories of a trip, slightly fuzzy but still convicting. Their audience is less interested as the stories are put on repeat. The fire begins to die, slowly perhaps but steadily.
I am not sure who is to blame, but I have seen it happen again and again. Please understand it’s not the memory of the trip or even the trip it self that is the fire. It is not even the memory of God at work- the fire is not a memory at all! It is the very presence of God at work in our student’s lives. In your life.
Church Family: Fan the flame! The students are returning from service- encourage them! Thank them for going! Give praise to our Father that we have young people who are willing to go! Ask them to share- in Sunday School, a ladies tea, or 5 minutes on a Sunday night. Push them towards holiness- encourage them to be Godly and do not hinder their excitement for missions. God is calling out young people to long-term service through short-term missions- do you really want to discourage the next Lottie Moon from God’s calling?
And to the returning missionary: Feed the flame! Stay deep in Scripture. Meditating and memorizing. Apply Scripture to your life- do not just read it. Live it. Be purposeful in praying for missions, be determined in casting a mission vision where you are. And never underestimate what God can do with faith the size of a mustard seed. Do not be deterred by disinterest. Do not live for man’s approval. Follow God, go where He leads. And obey the Great Commission where you are now.
The older I become, the less impressed I am with humanity, and the more in awe I am of my God. His love is worth any small sacrifice of man. His salvation is worth proclaiming. And the home He offers to those who believe is beyond imagination. What an amazing God that inspires such wicked people towards holiness. What a good God that gives new life to a decrepit creation. May the fire that burns within those who believe burn bright- may our life’s mission be to proclaim His love. The only love that brings salvation.