Over the past several years and my multiple and very different experiences with missions, one thing I have learned is that many people expect to hear stories about the countless conversions and miracles encountered. If I have learned anything it is that missions can be anything but those moments. Missions can simply be the mundane daily interactions and scheduled events that occur. And honestly, I feel like that can be the point of missions, those simple moments where we can really share and show God’s love.
One thing I constantly remind myself is of what David J. Bosch (a missionary from the Dutch Reformed Church) said about mission. That it “is thereby seen as a movement from God to the world; the church is viewed as an instrument for that mission. There is church because there is mission, not vice versa. To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love”
My first exposure to longer term missions than those one week or weekend trips was when I spent a summer in college in Namibia, southern Africa, traveling to schools providing HIV/AIDS education with a focus on abstinence with The Navigators international missions program. I spent another summer in The Gambia, in western Africa, as part of a school program that focused on working in health clinics. While these two experiences transformed my life, neither trip provided those big conversion and miracle stories people seemed to want to hear. I couldn’t provide numbers of people I brought to know Christ or the big miracles I saw or participated in. The stories I had were of simple ordinary people I met and talked with, the clinics I worked in, and my team members I traveled with and these stories are sometimes far from glamorous.
Now at the end of three and a half months with Mission Year, I look back and realize that this still holds true. I can’t look back and pick out any story of me leading anyone to Christ or any big miracle moments; however, I can reflect on these months and think of all the relationships I have started to form. While there are a few people I have gotten to know very well, most of the people I interact with are on a surface level, and I am okay with that. I can reflect back on these months and think that some of my largest struggles have been the “mundane” daily events, which have also provided me with some of my most meaningful moments.
Relationship building is a hard task, especially when you are looking for deep and meaningful ones. You cannot force yourself or anyone else into a relationship, it must occur naturally. And this holds true for introducing Christ into the relationship. Through the variety of people I have met and the relationships I have been building, they are all based around a built trust that has formed over multiple interactions, attending same events, and close proximity.
I look forward to the next seven months of Mission Year, and I am excited to see how these relationships grow and change. I look forward to meeting more people, building new relationships, and getting involved with new things. I am thankful for changes to come and new journey’s to be taken. I expect challenges to come and stumbling to occur, but I constantly remember that God brought me here for a reason and will not let me fail.