Sermon Titled “Go.Be. Love: Living Your Faith Outside the Walls” – Ministering Beyond Koza and Japan. August 31st, 2013
Missions and Missionaries! Those two words conjure up various thoughts for me: remote countries, poverty, hardships, courage, sacrifice, and admiration. When Pastor Reimer announced that he was going to talk about the mission trips that two of our church teams just returned from, I knew I would relate their experiences to all of the words above, but I also learned something new about mission work that I had previously overlooked.
Let me describe first, some of the experiences shared by several members of the mission teams, one which traveled to Maharasha in India, and the other to Malabon in the Philippines. Accompanying the stories they told, was a slideshow with photos – photos which really need to be seen in order to fully grasp what one sees and encounters on a mission trip.
The group that traveled to Malabon for example, witnessed firsthand a level of poverty that was initially difficult for them to comprehend; poorly constructed corrugated-iron shelters that housed families of ten or more, streets filled with trash and human defecation, and children who roamed those littered streets barefoot and wearing probably the only set of clothing they own. In India, the team witnessed much of the same.
But this is no surprise right? Even though many of us have never traveled to third-world countries, we have preconceived images which line up with that described above. And when people bring to life those images, through the stories they share with us, we are grateful, albeit sad, that we live here and not there. We appreciate those who go on mission trips because we know that they go to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those they visit.
I learned however, from watching the slideshow, that besides the obvious purpose of serving, there may be another good reason for more of us to step outside of our comfort zones and go out as missionaries.
As I observed the pictures of the men, women and children in the slideshow, a common theme began to emerge: everyone was equal, in terms of how they dressed, what they owned, where they lived, what they did, and how big they smiled. Their faith, I realized, is so simple and uncomplicated; not corrupted by all of the things that we in the Western world spend our days chasing after. We feel sorry for them, because they have so little, but I wonder if it’s not ourselves we should be feeling sorry for?
We tend to weigh ourselves down with problems that are really quite trivial and self-centered: self-image issues (we’re not attractive enough, slim enough, toned or muscular enough), career and job dissatisfaction (failure to get promoted, or get the right job), lack of material wealth (not enough money or assets); self-defeat (we feel disappointed when comparing ourselves to others).
I can see now why God’s word says that the poor will inherit His kingdom – their lives are less tainted by the things of the world, so that when they hear His word and accept it, their faith knows no boundaries.
- James 2:5 “Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”
We, on the other hand, are pressured daily to compete with standards that God never set for us, and our faith often wavers as we struggle to resist that pressure.
Making the effort therefore, to go on at least one mission trip, may help to strip away the layers of pride and selfishness that sometimes hinder our faith. We can go and bless, and be blessed. And in the process of serving those less fortunate than ourselves, we can benefit from the opportunity to witness what it is to be without, and yet have enormous faith, hope and joy.