At the end of July, eleven us of from our Diocese, including eight from the Shenango Valley, spent eight days on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. After spending the weekend getting acclimated, preparing, and attending worship, we helped with a Vacation Bible School in the morning and ran an eyeglass clinic in the afternoon. We also had opportunities to build relationships with a number of people from the church over meals and other fellowship time.
The trip was successful, based on the outcomes we could see. The Bible school grew each day as children from the neighborhood invited their friends, and the games and crafts we brought to accompany the local teachers’ Bible lessons seemed to go well. We were also able to match up over 100 people with eyeglasses that met their needs, including some for senior citizens who had never had glasses before. Seeing the joy on their faces as they could see clearly for the first time in decades or even in their entire lives was a real blessing. Everyone on our team was able to find God at work during the week and learned something about themselves and life in the Dominican Republic.
Mission trips, regardless of the destination, are important because our God is a sending God. In the scriptures, we hear God repeatedly telling people to “Go!” Abraham is told to “Go!” Moses is told to “Go!” Isaiah is told to “Go!” Jesus sends out the 12 and the 70 and tells them to “Go!” Jesus’ Great Commission begins with “Go!” In those rare instances where Jesus says to “stay,” the staying is only temporary. “Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high,” Jesus says to his disciples before ascending (Luke 24:49). After the Holy Spirit descends those same disciples will be witnesses, going from Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. We know that God even sent his only Son to come into the world. God is all about sending.
If God is telling us to “Go!” then we need to listen. We need to pay attention, however, to where God is sending us. Abraham was sent to another land. Moses was sent to Pharaoh. Isaiah was sent to his own people. Sometimes we are sent to unknown people on the other side of the world, but sometimes we are sent to people we know very well. Not everybody is going to take a mission trip to another country. Yet all of us have family members, friends, neighbors, or others within our circles of relationships who need to experience the love and good news of Jesus. The important thing is that we get up and “Go!”
Going means that we leave behind our security and our established ways of doing things so that we can be open to what God might have in mind. Going means caring more about sharing God’s love and good news with someone else than our own comfort and convenience. Going means that we offer ourselves to be used by God however he can use us to touch other lives.
When we are sent on a mission trip to another country, we may be giving up our language, our familiar foods, and potable tap water. We may have a program to implement, but have never met the individuals with whom we will be sharing Christ’s love. When we are sent within our own communities however, what we are giving up can be much more difficult. We may need to give up our judgments and resentments toward someone. We may need to give up our certainty that nothing will change. We may need to give up our control or our comfort with a situation or relationship. Instead we can offer God the gifts we have and use them where we are sent without any expectations except that God will be at work. We might cook a meal, watch someone’s children, share some music, offer prayers, or just be a listening ear. If we are obedient to God and go where God sends us, we can rest assured that God will do the rest.
We saw God show up in numerous places when we went to the Dominican Republic. Imagine how you will see God at work when you go where you are sent.
The Rev. Adam Trambley is rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sharon.