International Missions – Up close and personal

I have just returned from a mission trip to South Africa. We saw missions up close and found that it was a deeply significant personal experience for each of us on the team.

There is some disagreement about whether to call a trip of this nature a “missions trip” or a “mission trip.”  Those who add the “s” do so because the definition of missions refers to what we do to carry out the mission of God.  But I lean towards “mission trip” because the journey was taken to carry out the mission of God, even if it did include our efforts.  Thus I prefer to call it a mission trip, not missions trip.

My first international mission trip was in 1992.  I was part of a team of six women who were asked to come and lead training with women.  On the first Sunday, we drove out to a small church and the missionary told us about the congregation as we drove.  When we arrived at a mud brick building, built by the congregation themselves, the missionary said “And oh by the way, the roof on this building was a provided by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.”  I cried all the way through that service.

In the ensuing years, I have participated in trips to Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Poland, Brazil, South Korea, Tanzania, Indonesia, Malawi and now South Africa.  Each one has been a learning experience and meant a great deal to me personally. Each trip has been unique and provided different opportunities to participate in the mission of God. 

Bucket delivery Joy Sweetwaters lunch crowdSweetwaters food distribution bagsDuring the trip to South Africa, we participated in the mission of God as we shared the gospel through Holiday Bible Clubs at the Hope Centre Orphanage and in Sweetwaters.  We participated in the mission of God as we talked with several children individually about their relationship to the Lord and what it means to follow Jesus.  We participated in the mission of God as we shared food with those who are hungry. And we participated in the mission of God as we delivered Hospice Care Buckets to people who are very sick with AIDS and shared the gospel as we delivered each bucket.

DSCN1441In one home, the recipient was asked if she knew where she will be when she dies.  Using her hands, she pointed thumbs down.  Lisa Crenshaw shared the gospel and asked the lady if she would like to believe and receive Christ. The lady said yes and Lisa prayed with her.  After the prayer, Lisa asked again where she would be when she dies. This time the lady pointed thumbs up, smiled and hugged Lisa. Later another worker told Lisa that others have witnessed to this lady and she has always refused to receive the gospel.  The worker was thrilled that Lisa had come, clearly shared the gospel, and that this time, the lady believed.

Sweetwaters coloringDSCF1853Our missions experience was meaningful as we held hands and hugged the children, played games, sang songs, and did Bible story crafts.  It was touching to watch children who have very little share markers so that they could all color.  To appreciate this, it is important to know that on the last day, we had taken all of the crayons we had available and divided them up and put a few in each bag for the children to take home. So that day, when it was time to color, we had markers to use instead of crayons, and did not have enough for everyone to have a marker.  The kids had to wait their turn to use a marker.  Because we had even more children on the last day, we also did not have enough of the coloring sheets.  We had some white paper plates left and passed those out. Children who had received a coloring sheet tried to draw the picture on the plate for those who did not get the picture.

DSC_0464Missions is what we did. The mission of God is what the trip was all about.  We pray that the missions activities of our team will continue to have an impact in the minds and hearts of those we met and that we will one day meet again in heaven.

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