1Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, 2 complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. 3 Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. 4 Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. 5 Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
6 Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
7 But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Mission trips are a fascinating study! They can tell you a lot about the people you are with, the people you are serving, and yourself. The other thing they can tell you is how wrong you may have been about the aforementioned people. I have been on several mission trips and have done some local mission work as well. It is always interesting to hear comments from others and to hear my own comments (in my head or out loud) about situations or apparent situations. That is the thing – you can go to do a project and the space has not been prepared, the materials have not been bought, etc., etc. Usually only a few people can actually work on the planning and the things that are needed because: 1) most people aren’t equipped to do that; 2) there is usually only so much space in a home, etc.; and 3) too many opinions can be a problem. In the meantime, when the rest of us are hanging out, it can be a great time to get to know the homeowner and hear their story. Once the story has been told, sometimes it makes perfect sense why nothing has been done. Sometimes there are multiple tragedies happening at once, sometimes the person is so overwhelmed by the project at hand that they can’t see to do other things, and sometimes that is just the way people want things. It is their right.
Sometimes people are judgmental when we return to a space we thought we fixed, but it is not finished or can be worse, then some people wonder, “why bother?” Doing missions is a gift and like any gift, once it’s given it is for the recipient to do with whatever they want. Just like our salvation – it is given to us, but it is our decision to receive it or not.
The people in the group on the trip usually have a skillset. I have been lucky enough to go with people who are willing to share and teach and so I have learned lots of skills – none of which I am proficient at, but I can mud and sand walls, do a click-in floor, and some other things. If those people would not have taken the time to show me, we would not have gotten as much done, and maybe I would have felt left out of the team. They are serving in more ways than one.
One thing that has been stressed to us on just about every trip, is that the work is important, but making those connections with the people we are helping is just as important. Not only for them to have someone who cares about their story, but also for us so that we may understand why they can’t help themselves in that time and space. The whole point of doing these kinds of mission trips is to help those who can’t help themselves. In the end the asking for help and accepting the help given may be the only way they can help themselves. With eye opening observations, some sitting back at times, and hard work too, we can learn more about ourselves, our judgement of others, those who have been through so much but whose faith is strong and can teach us a thing or two. We all need something from someone at some point. We need to be as verse 3 says “don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” It is amazing when you go on a mission trip – the point is to help others, but in the end, I always come back enriched in some way – usually in many ways.
by Janet Waryck
For Pondering & Prayer
If you have been on a mission trip or even done a local mission, how have you found yourself judging others on your team, or those you are helping? If you haven’t been on a mission or haven’t done anything recently, plan to get out there somehow! MUMC has so many ways to do outreach.
Prayer: God of help, we know you will guide us to do the work you would want us to do. Help us not to judge others and the work they have done or failed to do but give us the strength to help others when and where we can. Amen.