Last week I met a man whose mother welcomed him to life by tossing him into a dumpster. He was among the most intelligent, charismatic, and genuine people I have ever met, and I only met him because God led me to small home over 7000 miles from where I currently sit to spend time with a group of people that I knew would change me even if I didn’t know how.
It’s been since my time as an aspiring writer in college, 18 years to be exact, that I’ve felt compelled to write anything about anything, but I can’t think of any way to process what I experienced on this mission trip, and so here I sit, hoping to get it all out and understand what God is wanting to do with it in my life.
I knew what to expect on this trip going in. I’d seen the commercial. The kids would be poor but full of joy—because material things don’t generate happiness. The kids would get gifts we would be less than enthused about and would love them anyway. The accommodations would be less than ideal but it would be all right because it isn’t a vacation, it’s a mission trip. You’re supposed to suffer, it’s good for the soul. I knew I’d be changed somehow and I was sure it would be good change, because how could it not be? I knew I’d cry when I left and that I’d give anything to go back.
All of that is true, and I don’t want to diminish it, because it is every bit as amazing as I was led to believe it would be. But it wasn’t all of it. It wasn’t even most of it.
I’ll remember this trip forever for a number of other reasons...
I’ll remember feeling that no matter what we do it isn’t enough.
I’ll remember realizing that that isn’t the point.
I’ll remember obsessing over a culture so different from our own and wearing everyone out asking every question I could think of.
I’ll remember going on a baboon hunt with Michelle Schrier and a house parent and ending up a mile down the road, in the forest talking about any number of plants and animals living in the area and wondering how much trouble we were in once we got back (it was worth it).
I’ll remember the other stuff I did Mary doesn’t know about yet … (also worth it).
I’ll remember thinking that everyone was being very polite in not pointing out that although they appreciated our help they could do the job faster and better than we were.
I’ll remember realizing that this trip was as much about what these people were giving me as it was about what I was giving them—and that that was ok.
I’ll remember sharing the experience with my wife and how cool it was to have her there with me.
I could go on—and I may later on—but I think the thing I’ll remember most about this trip is when I realized that it was so much about perspective. In life every major decision we make is an informed decision. If we buy a home, we employ someone to compare the comps and we look at schools and commute and any number of things. Buying a car is much the same. Planning for retirement, where we go to college, where we work when we’re done with college, even where we shop and what we buy—in an age of information being informed is second nature, but at some point it occurred to me that the exception to the rule, even for me, is faith.
Without making assumptions about how much effort the average Christian puts forth to make informed, faith-based life decisions, I was struck by how I’d never experienced the Faith through the eyes of another culture. I have always surrounded myself with people a lot like me in a place where I’m comfortable and I’ve not only tried to live my life with that information—I’m attempting to raise my children up on it as well.
I can’t explain it in any intelligent way, but I can say with confidence that no genuine growth happens when you’re comfortable, and that if you’ve never seen God through the eyes of someone so very different from yourself—you are making decisions without having done your research. You don’t have all the information. It’s something you have to experience to understand—and truthfully I experienced it and I’m not sure I understand it yet—but God has lit a fire in me that I can’t explain or contain and so all I can do is hold onto it and pray for discernment as I pray for those kids and those adults doing Gods work for the sake of the work and in the name of a God we all proclaim.
If you're interested in experiencing God through the eyes of another culture, we have a trip to Bosnia coming up this summer. Send us an and let us know you're interested.