Wednesday, August 17, 2011

short term missions: when?

Back in January I took my first steps down the path of higher education. Well, to be perfectly honest, they weren't my first steps. My first run at college started way back in '92, although, to call it a run at college is a fairly exaggerated and romanticized view of it all. A more truthful statement would be to say it was my first, and only run at the NFL.

I was a big guy in high school, so like all behemoth types I strapped on pads to play me a little football. I wasn't an exceptional player, but I was consistent and got good grades; two things that colleges are looking for. They like the standout, but if the standout can't play because of poor grades or if they play well sometimes, and not others, they can hurt the team more then they help.

Basically what I am saying is that I played consistently mediocre and that mediocrity earned me a full ride scholarship. I told everyone I was using football to pay for my studies, but my true goal, my vision, was to develop myself into a heaving mountain of muscle that could not be overlooked in the draft.

So I hit the gym, not the books. I studied film, not chem. I missed classes, some weeks at a time, all so I could fulfill my vision of getting drafted. 

Then my world came crashing down.

My school dropped the football program right after my Junior year. I had a year of eligibility left to play, a year left to finish my degree, and the school offered to allow us players to stay on a finish our degrees, on scholarship! Now given the fact that I had a wife and kid and a guaranteed financier for my degree, I made the obvious decision, look for another school to let me play. I mean, I was going to get drafted, you know?

But, I didn't get drafted and I got screwed out of playing my last season because of the NCAA and their damn rules. I told myself over and over how great I was because even though I couldn't fulfill my vision, I was at least true to it! A me-centered, me-focused mindset that tainted my marriage, my relationship with my kids, and my christianity.

My decision to “follow” Jesus was not some sort of altruistic self-sacrificing moment of clarity, it was way to make things easier at home, at work, in life. I wanted my life to change so it wouldn't be so hard, for me.

Now the brutal truth, four years ago when we first arrived, I was a me-centered, me-focused missionary. I am 100% sure God was calling us here, but I am equally 100% sure that I came with mixed motives. One of the biggest motivations, other then the whole serving God thing, was blessing. I wanted to be blessed. I still remember taking a little prayer walk, days after we arrived, where I had more or less this very conversation with God:

God this is so GREAT!

I am now serving you with my life, my whole life. I am going to be a blessing for you and you can be a blessing for me. We can bless each other. It'll be AWESOME!

I am so looking forward to see that blessing, for ME!

It wasn't until I got really humbled, mostly through un-blessings like our house being burglarized, our car being stolen, being extorted, having money stolen, having people talk shit about me and our family in front of our faces because those stupid gringos obviously can't speak Spanish that I began to change my focus. When I truly started to follow Jesus I learned that this life, the life of a missionary, the life of a true disciple of Christ is NOT ABOUT ME! 

So when does a short term missions trip work?

When our vision is not me-centered, me-focused! When we begin to seek to serve others and not ourselves! When we realize we don't know everything!

When we don't just give lip service to it being all about Him!


Have you ever seen a me-centered, me-focused attitude in missions? Is God teaching you that its not about you? Do you, or your missions department/board/ministry have a vision, if so what is it?
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