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I have an ulterior motive for mission trips

June 4, 2011

Yesterday I told you we’re working to get into Ecuador for the gospel this summer, and asked you to do two things:

  1. Pray
  2. Give

In that order.

And I know that some people will say that there are more efficient means of spreading the gospel. I don’t think that’s true.

I also know that some people will say that short-term mission trips are not what the world needs, that it’s not really the great commission.

It’s true, and it exposes my ulterior motive for our plans this July:

I want to burst spoiled-suburban-kid bubbles.

That’s all the reason some of you need to write a check, ’cause who doesn’t want to see that happen?

I’ve done this twice before, and I can’t tell you what two weeks on a foreign mission field does to the psyche of an American teenager.

First, it shows them things about God that no one can teach them. These kids know that God is real, and the Jesus story is true, or they wouldn’t be going, but they’ve never gotten to work for it. They’ve never really gotten to labor for the gospel.

On these trips, they see people break down when they meet the Lord for the first time. They hear people say, “Yes” to their testimonies and their evangelism efforts. They lay hands on the sick and see physical healing manifest. They see the spiritual battle that we talk about and read about, with their eyes wide open.

They come home knowing God in a new way, and knowing He can use them for real.

Second, it shows them things about themselves that no one can teach them. All they know is who other people tell them they are, but two weeks away from family and friends and media, focused on God and other people instead of themselves, is eye-opening. Who you really are comes out when you know that no one else is watching, when you’re deep in a primitive jungle and you haven’t bathed for a week, when you’re hot and tired and cranky.

It also teaches you how clean your house is, how easy your food comes, how comfortable your toilet is, and how convenient garbage cans are. You can almost see the horizons broadening in their eyes.

Finally, all of the above often combines to ignite a passion for the gospel and global missions in a young person’s heart. I know that two-week mission trips won’t save the world, but if it opens a young person’s eyes to the need, the suffering, the gap between “us” and “them” and at the same time the truth that there really is no “us” and “them,” then it might be a start. If we get one committed, passionate missionary for every dozen students we take overseas, then we win and the gospel really will be known across the world.

(Aaand, side-note: We’re working with local churches, so the ministry continues. We might be the first to share the gospel with these people, but we won’t be the last.)

Will you partner with us to mess up some teenagers this summer? We need all the prayer and financial support we can get.

The other complaint that I hear a lot is that we should just leave people alone, keep our faith to ourselves, etc. We’ll hit that on Monday.

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