Missions outreach can build up a community — and you, too!
Sept. 12, 2019
The longer I do this sort of work, the more my perspective continues to shift. Have you ever had that experience? Where you may have drawn an invisible line of what you think happens on the other side of it, only to discover that your idea of what happens and the reality of what happens are two different things. Perhaps a better way to say it is what you imagine to be true with a situation isn’t always the case. Maybe it isn’t even something you’ve ever really thought through, but then you’re confronted with a situation and you realize you had preconceived notions about it. Ringing any bells? Certainly I’m not the only one who experiences this.
Friends, I think we need to come to terms with the idea that what we think we know isn’t always the absolute or the be-all-end-all for any situation. What we assume to be true about someone else’s experience or life may not be accurate either. Even if we’ve walked a similar path as someone else, we may not truly understand their journey. Because it’s their journey, not ours. I believe wholeheartedly that our own experiences open us up to be more empathetic to others going through something similar, or it could have a negative effect and cause us to be more harsh about it.
The truth is that we don’t completely know what someone else is going through. We may know their current situation, but we don’t know what other things may be going on or what else they’ve endured.
I saw this drawing on Facebook and reached out to the one who designed it, because I loved it. I thought it was one of the best depictions I’ve seen. (Shout out to Decade2Doodles for allowing me to use it!)
In August, I attended the annual Convocation on the Rural Church. This year’s focus was “That All May be Healed.” Not only was this impactful in my own life, but for Hinton Center mission outreach as well. One of the plenary speakers shared on the last day about healing as a journey, and how we are all “wayfarers,” or travelers. I love this image for so many reasons. The point shared was that we are all on a journey from God to God, created and redeemed in Jesus, and that when we find ourselves in need of healing (in whatever form that comes), we aren’t people who need to be “fixed” like machines, but rather we need someone to walk alongside us as a fellow traveler. The question asked should be that of “what’s needed, right now, for the journey?” instead of “what’s broken and needs to be fixed?”
We live in a world where we want a quick fix, a fast answer, and immediate gratification. Some of us are more prone to trying to “fix” people or situations, and it usually comes from a good place, because we care. Yet, approaching other people with the mindset of “fixing” them isn’t holistic. It innately implies they are lacking or a problem.
Romans 15:1-2 reminds us, “We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.” This isn’t meant to be a hierarchical statement; I think it’s in a given moment on our journey as wayfarers, if we are not struggling, we need to walk alongside and reach out to someone who is. Then, during the times we find ourselves “weak” or struggling, we allow someone to extend the same love to us.
This is so important. Being in ministry with others can challenge our perspectives, but it can make us more fully aware of who God is as exemplified through the life of Jesus.
Doing something like coming to Hinton Center for a week of missions outreach can not only build up the community here, it can build you up too. It can provide you with the extra dose of inspiration that’s maybe needed so you can continue serving back at home.
It can also make an impact on the perspectives we all have. Some of our mission participants from this past summer shared at the end of their week,
- I learned the work is not always black and white. I felt at peace with God.
- I learned how to serve better and I saw God in lots of people and different ways.
- Put everyone on an equal spectrum. Everyone matters.
- I learned to help others before they hit an “economic” rock bottom (before they “need” it). Kind acts reflect God.
- To remember you only know one piece of the puzzle and to be grateful for what you have.
How can we more fully lean into the notion that what we know or think about someone else’s experiences or situation may not be the entire picture? Maybe we can ask ourselves who we need to be gentler with or who we can come alongside as a wayfarer.