As I write this, I am flying above Canada at 32,000 ft. I am leading a team of 12 incredible people who will spend the next 10 days ministering to our new friends in the metro area of Manila, Philippines. Our journey started 21 hours ago as our team left Paducah, KY by bus and spend the night in Nashville, TN. We unloaded our luggage and supply bags at 4:45 AM and took flight from Nashville to Atlanta. After a 2 hour layover we boarded another plane for Tokyo, Japan.
When we arrive in Tokyo we will have another 2 hour layover before our last 5 hour flight to Manila! Once we land in Manila we will be greeted by our missionaries in the Philippines, go to dinner, and then off to bed. All-in-all our journey from Western Kentucky to Manila will take about 40 hours.
Before we left, I told my oldest daughter, Brooklyn, that her parents were going to be “time travelers.” We will spend the next week living 13 hours ahead of our friends and family back home. The jet lag will be hard. The language will be a barrier. The living conditions will be foreign. And the food will be “experimental.”
So why in our right minds would we trek half-way around the world leaving the comforts of home and our loved ones behind? In fact that is what Brooklyn asked me two days ago. However, her question was much more simple: “Why do you have to go?”
At the time I gave her the “Christian” answer: because God wants us to go. However, as I have reflected on that question I don’t think it truly sums up the reality of our journey. How can I put into words the effectual calling of mission in a way that a nine year old girl would understand?
To be honest, I still don’t think I have the right answer. But this is what I do know:
1. God loves the world so much that He sent His Jesus to restore a broken relationship between God and mankind (John 3.16).
2. The restoration work that Jesus performed resulted in His death (which was freely and sacrificially given) and then His miraculously powerful resurrection (John 19.20; 20.1-23)!
3. Before Jesus left His disciples he gave them one last directive: “..be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” (Acts 1.8)
That last thought gets me every time. As I look at the state of church in America it has become increasingly obvious to me that we are doing a really good job of going the “ends of the earth.” We partner with missionaries. We send money. We send supplies. We pack our bags and visit them. We join in work for 5-10 days. Return home with a revived heart and excited about the next opportunity to go on a mission trip.
All these are good and right and biblical. However, I think we often miss the first thought of Jesus’ command: “be my witnesses in Jerusalem.” We need to understand that when Jesus gave this command He and the disciples were physically in Jerusalem. Judea and Samaria were regions surrounding Jerusalem. The point Jesus was making was that we need to begin to tell our story where we are and then work our way out as we move towards the end of the earth.
The problem with our view of “missions” is that we think we need to go far away to do God’s work when the truth is, Jesus says, “Start right where you are and tell the story about how I brought you from death to life. Tell them about sin and how it keeps them away from God’s perfect will. Tell your family, your friends, your co-workers, and strangers about how I lived a perfect life them. Tell them that I was beaten, bloodied, bruised, stabbed, and murdered – all the while I knew what was going to happen. Tell them I was buried and hidden behind a large stone. Tell them that guards stood watch too keep my disciples from taking my body. But then! Oh you can’t forget this part! Tell them that the grave couldn’t keep me. Tell them that I defeated death! Tell them that I rose from the dead! Tell them I did all of this because I love them so much that I valued their eternal live as greater than my own. Tell them that if they just believe this to be true and trust me with their life that my Father promises to give them an eternity in heaven. But no matter where you are; whether it’s in your hometown, on vacation, during a work trip, or on a mission adventure- make sure you tell your story.”
So where does that leave us? Where does that leave this awesome team as we make our way over Alaska, Russia, Japan, the Pacific Ocean, and then into Manila? What does it mean for us. It means that we need to tell our story. It means that when we hit the ground, we are focused and driven by the words of Jesus. But it also means that when we return home we don’t forget about our “Jerusalem.” For most of us, that is Paducah, KY. Others that could be Richmond, IN or Grand Rivers, KY.
So let me ask: where is your Jerusalem? Where is it that Jesus wants to use you in a powerful way? How can you share your story with this week?