I had the honor of sharing the morning devotion for our construction team this morning and thought I would share it with you guys as well.
What was on my heart is a little of an explanation about what has been going on with me for the last four or so years which involves the answer to the question above: why spend the money and time to go to Ecuador?
It isn't only a question for me, but maybe you also. Some of my friends ask me this. And my family. And even a few at College Park. And their reasons for asking are all valid: yes, there are plenty of needy in the states. Yes, it is a lot of money. Yes, short term missions can sometimes do more harm than good. Yes, it's like trying to dip the ocean dry with a tablespoon. Yes....yes.....yes.....to all those valid points. It is easy to find reasons not to do something. It was easy for me to find those reasons also. So what changed for me? Well, I could cite a lot of scriptures that helped adjust my life goals, but a key one was the following:
"For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the most holy place by the high priest as a sin offering are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the gate, so that He might sanctify the people by His own blood. Let us then go to Him outside the camp, bearing His disgrace. For we do not have an enduring city here; instead, we seek the one to come. Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name. Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices. (Hebrews 13:11-16 HCSB)
It had been some time since Christ's resurrection, and some of the believers were falling back into the legalism and cloistered world of Judaism. So here the author reminds them that Jesus lived his life as a temple outcast just like the leftovers from the sacrifices - spent, unworthy, and separated from "normal" society. He spent His life loving and ministering to those who had also been deemed unworthy of being "within the gates" - the lepers, prostitutes, criminals, physically infirm, adulterers, demon possessed, and other outcasts. Despite being born to a well respected theological man, having gainful employment, and basically being from a typical Jewish family, He cast all that aside to take love and the Gospel to those who He had been sent to reach.
So a few years ago I began asking myself, "Who have I been sent to reach?".
See, while the author of Hebrews remains a matter of debate, most believe that it was basically a Hebrew writing to Hebrews telling them to quit acting like Hebrews. When I sit back and read scriptures like these, I often leave them feeling like God would say the same thing to me today: you need to stop acting like what you think a Christian is and follow Me outside the gate. Cause we all stay inside the comfort, security, acceptance, and prosperity of our own "gates" a lot of the time, right? Our families that have to accept us anyway, our friends that think like us, our church that is full of folks who act and believe like we do, our coworkers that are focused on what we are, etc. So in all of that, what am I supposed to be doing for God? If I make sure that I am surrounded by familiarity and stability and equate blessing with lack of want, how am I ever going to be blessed with His true provision in my life?
And that is why these trips to Ecuador are important to me. Of course God uses all of us when we obey and put ourselves here: the pastor leading the church we are building has been praying for a church to be stood up in this neighborhood FOR TWENTY YEARS! If we hadn't obeyed to become part of the answer to his prayers, God would have used someone else and we would have missed the blessing of being a part of it. But even more important for me personally, these trips remind me how many people I am surrounded with every day at home that are "outside the gate" of my usual day that I should be sharing His love and the gospel with. I absolutely believe that God has a mission for me in every day if I will just be in relationship with Him enough to focus on being in the yoke with Him instead of all the other things in my life that society believes I should be focusing on.
It is often hard to remind myself of that in the midst of everyday, "normal" life. It is a lot easier when I spend a week way "outside my gate" only focusing on Him and how He would have me use my life. And THAT's the answer to, "Why A Short Term Mission Trip to Ecuador?".