Mission trips have a way of changing people; changing the way people think or the way they see the world that they return home to. If you've been a part of a mission experience before, then you will probably find what I am about to say somewhat familiar. If you're new to the idea of a mission trip, let me explain the change.
The moment you step back in an American airport or back in your hometown, you notice something is different, and it's not just the air-conditioning. You might not be able to pinpoint the difference you feel, but something is definitely not the same as when you left. You might say that you're looking at the world with new eyes and a refreshed mind. You are happy to be home, but you can't stop comparing the differences between where you are now, and where you just came from. Maybe you're blown away when you realize how many tv's are hanging on the walls and from the ceiling, and you're still just in the airport. You notice the coffee lines and the fast food lines, finally aware of just how plentiful and accessible food really is here. You're walking around with your head on a swivel, and everything you see reminds you of the country or town you just served in, and how little the people actually had. Your view of the world has been rocked to the core. Your definition of poverty has been changed. You understand the meaning of basic human necessities. Your own list of “needs” has been updated, realizing how many were really just “wants”. And no matter what you do, you'll always remember the smiles you witnessed from people who had next to nothing.
So you've been back for a couple of days, you've napped and recuperated physically. Time for lunch with some friends. But again, there's this way of thinking in you that has been altered due to the previous 7-14 days spent in a place where money was almost non-existent. Remember, the majority of people were poor, really poor, not just what we think of as United States poor. You have seen first hand the hardships and sufferings people experience. You no longer have to rely on hearing about this stuff from someone else or seeing starving people on tv commercials, because you’ve been there. You've been face to face with suffering and hunger and poverty. All you have to do is close your eyes and you will see those faces, those tears and smiles, those people whom you served with the love of Christ. You’ve experienced it first hand, you’ve smelled it, you’ve got sore feet and aching muscles that scream out “Don’t forget! Don't ever forget this!”
You remember all of this as you sit down at a restaurant to pay $9.95 + tip for a great meal with friends. Not a bad price at all. Then it hits you. You're drinking your second refill on soda and remember how hard it was for those people to get clean water to drink. You start to wonder if the waiter will bring more chips before your meal gets to you, and you remember how little food there was for the family of 7 sharing a one room “house” that looked more like a mud pie fort. You think of the money that you’re paying for your meal, probably $13 if your tip is decent, and you realize how far that money could be stretched back in the place you just returned from. Then, you look at your 6 other friends at the table and do some quick math. 7×13=91. $91 could buy so many of those New Testament Bibles ($.70 ea.) that you were passing out. It could help buy medicine for 30 newborn babies, or food for an entire family for weeks. You go home and multiply that amount by the number of times you and your friends go out to eat each month, and your minds starts cranking out ideas about how to live on mission for God. You scribble down ideas whenever they hit you. Ideas about feeding the homeless, about supplying them with long-johns during the winter months, about caring for abandoned babies, or helping single parents with food for their families. Ideas about taking the word of God to those that society has ignored.
You realize that you don’t have to wait to go on a mission trip to serve God. BINGO! God is changing the way you think. You start finding ways to live here at home like you were living while serving on the mission trip. Less tv, more personal time with God studying your Bible. Less internet, and more face time with friends and family, developing and strengthening relationships. Less thinking about yourself, and more thinking of others and how you can serve them and share God's love. You start to trim down your unnecessary spending, and you retool your budget. You cut out $4 coffee 3 times a week, you slow down on your music and movie purchases, you realize nobody really needs $150 jeans. You start thinking of the things you buy that you really don't need, and equate that stuff to items the people desperately needed back in the place you were serving. Cut back on 3 of those coffees a week, and that's 17 New Testament Bibles you could send out. Cheaper clothes means you could help buy antibiotics for the children at the orphanage to help fight off infections. Restaurant food = rice and beans for the locals for a couple weeks. $10 movies plus popcorn = shoes for the kids who've never had a new pair their entire life. You do all of this not because someone is forcing you, but because God has opened your eyes and changed the way you think.
Romans 12:1-2 says,
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
This isn't about tithing or church offerings or sacrificial giving; and it's not about making you feel bad for the money you spend. It's about challenging the way you think and encouraging you to use all of your resources, your gifts, and your blessings (whether monetary or not) to glorify God and make an impact for Him. It's about challenging the status quo of society. Money isn't the only way God has blessed us, but it is an area that can quickly get out of control when we don't seek God's direction. Live above the influence of the advertisers and above our world's push to get out there and spend.
Seek God's direction about your finances. Do you see your bank account as your own private property, or do you see it as God's blessing? Do you check your direct deposit online and praise God for His blessings and asking Him for the wisdom to be a good steward with what you have?
I'm just saying, what IF we started thinking differently about money. What if we asked God what He might want us to do with our next paycheck, or our next bonus, or our next $20 bill we find washed and dried in our jeans.
What if we saw a $3 desert at the end of a meal not as a sweet end to a great meal, but as the possibility to share the Good News about Jesus Christ in the form of a New Testament Bible.
I guess my question is, do you use all of your gifts and blessing to impact people for Jesus? Or do all of your blessings cause you to lose focus on Jesus, who gave His life for you?