Our church just announced our short term mission opportunities for 2015. With an attendance of over 10,000 people, the booklet is quite thick. Is God calling you to Wales or India, Honduras or Macedonia? South Africa, Uganda, Haiti… the list goes on and on.
As I leafed through the pages, I asked God—are any of these trips for me? What do You want me to do this year? “Just moving will be enough for you for this year,” came the quiet reply. I admit I breathed a sigh of relief. Moving has been all-consuming for the past month, and there’s much more to do still. It’s amazing how much work it takes to simplify one’s life!
Still, I vividly remember reading a similar booklet two years ago, asking God the same question, and getting a much different answer. Much to my astonishment, the type on the page for Swaziland leapt off the page at me. It was so pronounced that at first I thought the page had been printed in bold.
I didn’t know why God wanted me to go to Swaziland. I’m not much of a “kid person” and this trip was all about kids. I signed up in pure obedience; it wasn’t until later that we realized we needed a person on the team dedicated to taking photos.
As I was discussing this year’s trips, a friend expressed her interested in going somewhere, but she didn’t know where. She specifically didn’t want to go to an orphanage, but couldn’t imagine how her skills could be used elsewhere. “Maybe I just need more training first,” she suggested. “I’m not ready yet.”
It’s true that sometimes God leads us to prepare in certain ways for Him to use us. Sometimes, we clearly see where He is leading. Are we to be a missionary doctor? Then we’d better go to medical school. Does He want us in construction? Then we need to learn a construction-related trade, or perhaps even get a degree in architecture or structural engineering.
Other times, God just picks us up right where we are and puts us to use. Peter and the other apostles fishermen, tax collectors, everyday people, when Jesus called them to be evangelists, missionaries, and church leaders. They didn’t have a chance to go to Bible school or seminary (although being trained by Jesus more than makes up for that). They didn’t go learn a new trade, in order for God to use them. They just said “Yes” to His call.
There’s another consideration with short-term missions. We sign up with the intention of “making a difference” but usually what ends up different is us. Don’t limit what God wants to do in your life. Just the process of raising support, taking time off from the daily grind, getting on a plane, and going to a radically different place where we’re not in our comfort zone is enough to increase our dependence on God. I guarantee you’ll see Him more clearly when you leave home and go.
Placing yourself in God’s hands overseas will open your eyes to depending on Him at home. Serving others in another culture will increase your desire to serve right here. A significant number of those who go on mission trips at our church end up volunteering for local ministries. A few discover they’re called to the mission field, and return only to pack up and move to another country.
Not everyone is supposed to go on a short-term trip this year. God has specific plans for each of us. But don’t assume that God can’t use you the way you are, or that there’s nothing to be gained from such an adventure. The important question is, are we listening? Have we asked the question, “What do You want me to do this year?”