For the first summer in my 28 years, I am not going on a mission trip or retreat of any kind. Instead, I am filling pulpits of other pastors who are on mission trips. It’s a strange experience to be on the other side of a mission trip because I simply never have been. I always wondered what the other people did.
Doug Banister wrote a poignant piece about missions that has me thinking. He notes:
Some well-meaning Christians have a theology of mission that seeks to alleviate the spiritual and physical suffering of people far away, but pays little attention to needs here at home.
I can’t help but think of my first year of teaching in my hometown. I found myself in high poverty schools in a town I had been born and raised in and yet, the city I experienced with my 18 students was not a city I knew at all. I was confronted with abuse, neglect, and violence in the faces of 7 year olds everyday.
Any idea I had of home and what my city had to offer had to be changed and reformed in light of the understanding that there was extreme poverty surrounding me and had been surrounding me for years. My mind raced with questions, but didn’t we have more churches in our city than stoplights? Why weren’t they helping? Why wasn’t I helping? Why didn’t I ever know this part of my city?
Maybe, as we plan our next mission trip we should first look around our congregations and ask, “Who isn’t here? Whose voices aren’t being heard?”