SUFFERING FOR JESUS?
Sensing the Lord’s direction for our lives is everyone’s calling. The difficulty for me was understanding that the call of God is daily paying attention to what lessons He wanted me to learn that day. Perhaps, the lessons learned would work toward some future goal that the Lord was preparing me for, but it was also quite possible that the goal is the process. That process being focusing on God and the events of today.
I had always been supportive of missions and interested in missionaries. That world remained somewhat mysterious and foreign. My worldview had it that missionaries lived in grass huts in Africa. Evidence to the contrary seemed strange and misplaced. The thought of a missionary to America or to a country in Europe was next to unfathomable. When presented with someone that was a missionary to Europe, I thought what a cushy job that must be to “hang out” in such a romantic place as Europe. It seemed very strange that a missionary would be in Europe in that capacity.
As my experience base broadened and I had firsthand exposure to missions in Europe, I realized how far off-base I had been. Europe is a very hard field despite the high standard of living. A former Africa-based missionary that had been “promoted” in her organization to an area supervisory role was moved to the area office in Vienna, Austria. She expressed to my wife and me after a church service in Albania that since she was moved to Austria, she didn’t feel as if she was “suffering for Jesus.”
We have built into us (at least in America) the notion that to be a missionary we must travel to some distant, less comfortable place where we can “suffer for Jesus.” My own attitudes attest to that. Going to a lesser developed country, with a Holy Spirit heart and trying to look through Jesus’ eyes, impacted my view of missions in a dramatic way. It broke my heart.
I thought for the first few years that my heart had been broken for Albania. Well, it had, but the Lord taught me as time went on that He had given me a deeper glimpse into His own heart, which is broken for the world. The Lord desires the love and devotion the people of Albania, for sure, but also the Sudan, Zimbabwe, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Russia and everyone else, including America.
As you prepare to go on a mission trip, regardless of where you are going and how many trips you’ve been on, do it prayerfully and open to the direction of the Holy Spirit. If you can, pray and seek the Lord’s direction before you decide where to go. If where you are going is already determined, pray for guidance as to the group that will ultimately assemble and their mental, physical and spiritual preparation. Pray that lives will be impacted both on the team and among the people with whom you will be serving.
This manual is intended to help individuals and groups prepare for going on a mission. It isn’t rocket science, but it is “out of this world.” That is what makes mission work challenging. In rocket science, the numbers are added, the answer is taken. In missions, plans are made and logistics are applied, but we prayerfully follow our heavenly Leader as relationships are developed in the fellowship of different cultures and languages. The Holy Spirit is able to build a bond between people in spite of their differences. If anyone comes home from a mission trip unchanged, they weren’t paying attention to God.
The different exercises and discussions are intended to help you, the leader, prepare your group for what they’re about to undertake. It’s not a vacation, but it’ll be the best “vacation” ever. It’s not a trip just for “fun,” but it’ll be great fun and more. May the Lord richly bless your Mission!