Go... then send....
"Where did you go on mission trips last year?" I get asked that question a lot. While I do a lot of work with small churches in the US and Canada, I know what the questioner means: "what countries did you go to and did you have any adventures?" Fact is, in the last few years I haven't gone overseas very often. I went from a life hopping from one mission work to another to a life where I send others rather than going myself. Am I wimping out? No -- it's part of a plan.
Before I go on a mission trip I ask myself if that is the best use of the money we have. Wouldn't the missionaries rather just have the money -- which most of them desperately need -- rather than another visit from me? When I ask the mission churches that question they nearly always say "No! We need to see people from back home. We need their on-site encouragement and we need to show others what we are doing." That brings up a completely different question: should that visitor be me? The answer I give myself is "probably not." The reason? I have lived on the mission field a lot of my life. My photo books are full and so are the pages on my latest passport. Our funds are limited so we need to come up with a plan for missions where those few dollars can do the most good. And we think we've found that plan.
We send our members. And their children. And their friends. Kami and I and our kids will always be mission-minded. We will always be global in our view of God at work in His Kingdom. We want to "infect" others with the mission virus. We can't give to everybody -- or even to most -- but when we can scrounge up another $20 or $50 or more, we write a check. The more of us who go on short term missions, the more people there'll be who will support missions the rest of their lives. They will be so changed by the experience they will want to share it with as many as possible.
Take your next vacation in a mission field and serve for that week or two. You will NOT regret it. Then, take that money you were saving for something special and get it into the hands of others, sending them on a short-term mission. This is "paying it forward" in an eternal sense. The love of missions -- which really means the love of God's children -- is infectious but it can only be caught by direct contact. Let's arrange our personal budgets so that this epidemic of love and sacrifice is maximized.
Be creative. Sometimes missions are traditional meetings and campaigns. Other times they are clean-up and repair trips to the Gulf coast or digging wells in Western Africa, or teaching women health care for themselves and their children in Central America. It is doing good in the Name of Jesus. And "doing good" is never, ever a waste of time or money.
This week alone, we have one team returning from the Gulf (you can see photos of them at work at www.xanga.com/jasonsteckel) and another one going (this one from Rochester College, next door to us). We have one worker returning from Honduras and a team going to the Bronx. Kami and I don't have much money and we live from check to check, but it gives us more joy than we can express to know that each of these teams went with some of our money and all of our prayers.
Go. Then send. Repeat. And to God be the glory.