This month's Carla's Column asks us the question, "What is in your hand?" What do we have available to use for the benefit of others? How can we serve the needs of those around us? Putting aside training, education and credentials, we all have something in our hand to be a blessing. Consider the gifts you've been given as you read this encouraging post!
It’s incredible how when God puts something on your radar your eyes see it and your ears hear it as if it were for the first time. It’s like getting a new car and then noticing every other driver with the same one. Once your brain registers that make, model and color, you all of a sudden notice every other driver driving your car. Well back last December God put a mission trip on our radar and registered it in our brain.
May I use the word “incredible” again? It was incredible to me that never before had Brandon nor I felt called to go on a mission trip, but the Lord placed it on our hearts at exactly the same time. We have a heart for missions and we have a budget for missions, I mean I have an aunt and uncle who devoted their lives to the mission field, but I never imagined myself personally, physically going, to literally be the hands and feet of God’s love extended. Honestly, each time we had missionaries come speak at our church, or would listen to the reports of former mission teams from our church, I’d--for real--sit there and thank the Lord that He hadn’t called me to go. It just sounded so miserable.
However, when Brandon said, “We need to go on a missions trip,” I heard myself reply, “You’re so right.” And I really meant it! We’re big budgeters in our home, and although we had already had our meeting to formulate our 2016 budget, we trusted God would provide so Brandon called our Pastor the very next day and signed us up along with Brooklyn and Jaron.
When reflecting back on our first foreign mission trip, this is where the joy begins. The joy of this experience started with the decision to go. The greatest message I can share with you here is that the decision to go wasn’t out of obligation or guilt or inferiority.
I never felt this was a duty. And I never felt those who served in foreign missions were more stellar for Jesus. I still don’t.
What I do know is that our uniqueness is His design of working His creative plans in and through us.
See, the good news is we don’t have to go on a mission trip to be effective for Jesus. We just need to be sure we are where He wants us to be, when He wants us to be there doing what He wants us to do. It may look a little different for each of us. Or it may just look different in different seasons.
God will stretch us out to accomplish His plans and purposes in the places He desires. We don’t need to feel we must replicate another’s path, we simply trust Him to lead us in His unique design for us.
But cue up the Lion King’s “Be Prepared” song here. We must be prepared to extend ourselves beyond ourselves. This may mean the anticipation of discomfort.
In listening to the May 8th, 2016 “God’s Workmanship” podcast from Mark Batterson, he spoke about another podcast of an interview with Anders Ericsson regarding Deliberate Practice, a concept from Ericcson’s book Peak. In his message Batterson shares,
Deliberate Practice-- you have got to be practicing, we’ll put it in the terms of physical exercise, at 70% maximal strength. In other words, when you do physical activity your body has to be stressed to the point beyond 70% where homeostasis cannot be maintained. In other words, your body has to adjust to what’s happening. Where your metabolism has to change because of the way that you are pushing your body. The body has to grow new capillaries to get more oxygen to your muscles. And then here’s the crazy thing, once you hit your goals, a certain point of physical fitness, the work out that got you there won’t get you to the next level. So now you’ve got to do it all over again! It’s called a stretch goal. And what’s true physically is true spiritually.
I’m sure this message could have challenged me to spend a few more minutes on the tread mill or at least increase the incline of my run, but as this concept fell on my ears I knew it was to motivate my mindset for missions. For months, the Lord poured material into my heart in preparation for this trip. The trip was on my radar.
See, I’m the girl who goes on trips and enjoys a nice soft bed, a temperature controlled environment, gourmet meals, wardrobe options, several pairs of shoes, a snazzy bathroom and enough drawers and closet space to move in for the week. Sounds pretty rotten doesn’t it? But work with me here.
Although I enjoy the cushy things I’m so grateful the Lord has allowed me to experience, I can tell you that when He called me to go without them, there was just as much enjoyment. Isn’t that so incredibly awesome?!?!
How could that be? Because, I wasn’t there for any other reason than the simple fact that God called me to be there. And while I anticipate more mission trips in my future, I can say…
- I’ll never go expecting to have the same experience I just had. That would be disappointing. Nothing could be just like it was. And I wouldn’t want it to be. That would limit God.
- I’ll never make my decision to go based on who else is attending. We committed to this trip before we ever knew who may go, but God knew. He knew that Brandon, Brooklyn, Jaron and I needed a special time connecting with our church family and He packaged up a special bond with some people we didn’t even know before we left. I’d have never wanted to miss out on that sweet gift.
- I’ll never feel like I dodged a bullet again when hearing the stories of those in the mission field. I’m still amazed at how much we received. It was so unexpected and incredibly humbling. As surprised as I was to have had such spiritual nourishment there, the Lord reminded me of those words found in Luke 6:38, “Give, and you will receive….” Oh how we received.
It’s too much for one blog post. But a series would suffice. Would you please join me again as I share some of our moments from El Salvador?
My prayer in preparing and my prayer there was, “Lord, speak in us and through us.”
He did just that. Not just for El Salvador but for home.
As we leave today, let's continue to ask, "Lord, how do you want to stretch me?"
I pray your heart is encouraged, inspired, motivated, challenged and blessed as those treasures are shared in the posts to follow.
“One mission trip is worth fifty-two sermons.” Mark Batterson
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