In 2004, I had an incredible opportunity to take a short term missions trip for 6 weeks to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was on this trip, where I experienced my first real taste of what it’s like to be in a Developing/post third world country, and try to be salt and light in a country that is predominantly Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu. Our team was able to help out with a Montessori school, help with a grand opening of a resource center for kids to learn music, science, math, English, baking, etc. There are prob. a dozen other things we did during this trip, but those are some of the main things I remember. But the odd thing about being overseas during this trip, wast that it felt like we were floating on clouds. (Or at least that’s how I felt). All the food tasted good (that was def. just my opinion 🙂 All the people where so nice and kind. All the refuge kids that we served were amazing! I experienced what I like to call a hyper sensationalized view of missions. Let me explain.
During my time on that 1st trip to KL, we experienced some incredible poverty. We saw families that would travel from Burma (now called Myanmar) to KL, in order to “squat” on land that was not theirs, find random pieces of metal, wood and other debrie to make a home for their families. These refuges didn’t have citizenship to any country. They were not able to put their kids in a public school, they were not able to obtain real legitimate jobs and pay taxes, they couldn’t receive government aid, they basically didn’t even exist as far as the world was concerned. And for these 22 year old American eyes to observe all of this poverty and injustice, it was overwhelming! Here I am, this young punk 22 year old indie kid, that spends prob 40 dollars a month on Starbucks latte’s, lives at my parents home in Perrysburg, OH. I own all these expensive guitars, amps, pedals, blah blah blah (you get the picture). At first glance, it’s embarrassing. Why do I have so much? And these people have so little? Right? “I need to sell everything, and be here forever to help these people!” I thought to myself.
While many of these thoughts, feelings, and knee-jerk reactions are true, my perspective was a bit premature.
After returning home to the states, our team was part of a 1 week missions debriefing in Nashville, TN. This was a time for all of the other teams that went to other locations other than KL, to see everyone, and be able to decompress, and have a time of prayer, meditation, and community. During this time, just about everyone was talking about how they wanted to go back to their missions location and live there, rescue more orphan children and adopt them, etc. etc. Everyone was “JAZZED” to say the absolute least. Thankfully, our leadership (who have been running YWAM (youth with a mission) Nashville for about 30+ years, and had been on 200+ short and long term trips themselves) were able to steer this group of emotionally high strung 20 somethings, and guide us back to a balanced reality.
Now I know what a lot of you might be thinking….BALANCED REALITY?…Sounds Harsh right?……Sounds so cold and void of compassion right?……….Maybe, but maybe not.
One of the main points our leadership wanted to drive home, was the fact that YES, we did experience real poverty and real need for the first time in many of our lives. YES! We do need to do something about it! But the question is “what”? And “how”?
The great commission makes the “WHY” pretty clear:
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Another one that makes the “WHY” clear for me as a Christ follower is