Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way, walk in it,”
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left.
If you’ve not yet read the rest of the series this month, I encourage you to do so. This is the final point regarding short-term mission trips. Enjoy!
4) Open your heart to the Spirit’s prompting
I once knew a carpenter named Geoffrey. He was a good guy. He struggled with alcohol, though. He had a wife and several children. They were from South Sudan but had come down to make a life for themselves in Kitgum. He helped me whenever we needed something built. We developed a relationship and so he wouldn’t cheat me like some others did because of my skin color and speech. We shared with Geoffrey about the Lord many times, but he was hesitant. One day he did come to say he wanted to follow Jesus, and we were delighted. Shortly after that we had a team come. Geoffrey and some of the team members built a chicken coop on our compound. We paid Geoffrey what was agreed upon (a reasonable and fair amount), but one team member out of the kindness of his heart (without talking to us first) decided to give Geoffrey a whole big pile of money for his hard work. We never saw Geoffrey again. He went so far down a rabbit hole of drunkenness, left his family and to this day I don’t know where he ever went. Without enough discipleship and with the temptation of all of that money in his hands, he went off the deep end. I pray that if he is still alive, he remembers the truth he heard about the love of Jesus.
This situation broke my heart. Such things damage relationships. We cannot fix people with our money. The sooner we realize this, the more smoothly relationships can be built, and progress can be made. Having said that, because of what I have seen and experienced, I can tend to say definitively that things should be a certain way. Most of us long-term missionaries are the same. We can even get jaded. We can lose trust in short-term teams, trust in the local people, and most of all just think that we know everything. This is just as dangerous.
When we read in the Gospels about the miracles of Jesus, something striking is that He did things differently every time. One time He speaks and a servant far away is healed. One time He spits in dirt and rubs it in a man’s eyes. One time a woman touches the hem of His garment and healing flows out of His body. We could go on and on. God doesn’t stick to the formulas we think He should. If we pray over someone, we can’t expect that God will do things the same way every time. He is God, and we are not. We don’t understand His ways, and we can’t just simply put things into a formula. I have a policy of not just handing out money to people. Having said that, there have been times when the Holy Spirit has prompted me to do just that. The same is true of giving rides to people we don’t know. As a policy we don’t do it because of safety issues, but if I pass someone on the road and God tells me to give them a lift, I give them a lift. Who am I to argue with GOD? If He says to do it, I must. We must be cautious and use wisdom and care. Just as important, though, is that we are led by the Spirit. There comes a point when we throw our manuals out the window and let God take us where He wants- outside of our Policies and Procedures, outside of the safety of normal, into His supernatural plan.
If you are traveling on a short-term mission trip this summer, please respect the authority over you. But beyond that, listen to the Lord. If you know God is speaking to your heart to do something, talk to the missionaries on the ground (please) and you can prayerfully move forward with their blessing.
If you are a sometimes-jaded missionary living in the field, remember that God isn’t bound by your policies and procedures. He does things that you won’t understand or that may not have been written out in your manual. Respect your sending organization and those in authority above you, but most importantly follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Never let what you have seen and experienced stifle you from moving in sync with Him. We have a lot to learn from the short-term people who come, full of passion for the Lord and ready to conquer anything. Just because they need that harnessed, doesn’t mean we couldn’t use some of that fire ourselves!
We all have a lot to learn from each other.
What do you think?
Have you seen the damage that good-intentioned people can bring?
Have you experienced a time when God had you do something outside of your comfort zone and beyond your common sense?