If you’ve ever been part of a meaningful cross-cultural experience, you’ve probably found yourself wondering after your return home, “Now, how do I live here in light of what I learned there?” This is a necessary and challenging question, meaning you don’t just see this as a stand-alone event to check off of the Christian to-do list. We at Envision pray and hope that these “mission trips” merely serve to be a continuation of a life lived on mission. But, we know that it’s a lot easier said than done.
There’s just something about the mission TRIP mentality that is hard to translate into a true missional way of life. I’ve certainly been convicted and humbled to recognize the disparity between I am on the “mission field,” and who I am at home. Why is it so much harder to be a light in the darkness in my own city than it is in Indonesia or inner-city Chicago? Why are the practices that come so easily for me on a short-term trip, like fervent prayer and daily Bible study, not an absolutely essential habit in my long-term real life? Why do I seem to have more boldness, passion and burden for the lost when I cross a national border than when I cross my own street?
We’ve all heard that nothing magical happens when you hop on a plane. You’re not instantly transformed into a fearless, inspired, powerful communicator of the Gospel. Yet, we’ve seen the Holy Spirit ministering in us, and through us, on foreign soil in ways we rarely experience at home. So, if He is the same everywhere, and if He lives in me whether I’m in Africa, Asia or America, what am I “missing” here that I seem to have there?
So I started a list of some possible answers to that question…
1. A sense of urgency
A short-term trip is just that: it’s short. We know we’re not going to be there forever, so we don’t want to waste a single day. We give all we’ve got and we take every opportunity presented to us.
2. The necessity of spiritual disciplines
Since we are constantly pouring ourselves out, we must continually be receiving and hearing from the Lord. We know that our daily ministry, relationships and well-being are directly dependent on our time spent in prayer, worship and Scripture study. It’s non-negotiable.
3. Decreased distractions
We intentionally leave behind all the technology, media, and consumerism of our culture in order to pursue the people in front of us. We aren’t bombarded with a hundred things on our to-do list or running circles in every direction. We unplug, breathe, and focus on the present (mainly because we have no idea what tomorrow will hold anyway!)
4. Constant community
For 24 hours a day we’re surrounded by fellow journeyers… like it or not! There is built-in (if not forced) accountability, vulnerability, forgiveness and iron-sharpening-iron-ness. We must actually BE the church for one another, often because there is no other church.
5. An expectation to see God move
We awaken every morning with a heightened sense of excitement, asking “what’s God going to do today!?” We submit ourselves to His plan, actively look for where He is moving, and jump to join Him when possible.
6. Purposeful relationships
Our conversations, even with new acquaintances, quickly dive into heart and soul matters. Though brief, we want our interactions to be meaningful. We bravely take opportunities to share truth and hope with our new friends and pray earnestly that they would follow Jesus.
7. The desperation of the lost and the least
Poverty, spiritual bondage, and injustice surround us and hang heavy on our hearts. We are exceedingly aware of all that is not right in the world. God’s passion for the lost and broken becomes ours and we cry out to Him for rescue and redemption. And He vividly reminds us that WE are His light in the darkness.
8. Daily service and sacrifice
We don’t expect it to be easy. In fact, we embrace the difficulties and gladly take up the challenge to tirelessly love and serve. We give ourselves away every day, despite exhaustion and weakness, then we get up and do it again. We count the cost and find that the sacrifice is more than worth it!
Those are some of the things I feel like I’ve “left behind” following a cross-cultural trip. But, did I need to? Are they only valid on foreign soil??? Re-read with me the above list and let’s ponder whether any of these can translate into our lives here and now.
Yes, we can live with a sense of urgency today, making the most of every opportunity...
And, frequent time in the Father’s presence could be non-negotiable…
We could limit the distractions around us and plug into our community of fellow Christ-followers…
We could approach our very normal Tuesdays with the anticipation that God might want to do something great!
We could pursue deeper friendships, praying for a chance to bring hope…
And we could put ourselves right in the middle of desperate people in order to selflessly serve them because the joy surpasses the sacrifice!
There is no reason we can’t live a missional life outside of a mission trip. What are we waiting for?
Sarah Bourns serves in the realm of staff care for Envision, providing support, resources, and equipping for our 40+ long-term workers in the U.S. and around the world. Sarah is originally from California, and enjoys cooking for friends, teaching English, spending time outdoors, and getting auntie time with her nieces and nephew.