As I reflect upon my week just spent in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, I am realizing afresh what a life changing experience a cross cultural missions outreach can be. Our team of fifteen from Bridgewood Community Church, took some time last Saturday morning before our departure to debrief. The clear consensus was that each of our lives was unalterably touched by God through our relationships with one another, and especially with the people of Cabo.
As is typical of most forays into a strange place and immersion in a different culture, we shared common fears and worries. Would we be able to make the necessary adjustments in the accommodations, food, time schedule and the many demands put upon us to complete our ministry goals? How would we be received by the people we had come to serve? How much of a challenge would the language barrier be in our communication with one another?
In retrospect we can see how all of these fears were allayed by the faithfulness of God. It never ceases to amaze me how everything on an outreach can end up working out for good and for His glory. God’s just-in-time breakthroughs and provision always prevail. And divine connections, the providential meeting and bringing together of key individuals, always delight.
Why are outreaches so life changing?
- They leave an indelible imprint of Gods’ love upon our hearts expressed through the people that we meet. The realization that good people, God’s people, are the same everywhere, no matter where you go in the world is always disarming. Love expressed through a smile or shared laughter, a touch or gentle embrace has a way of erasing our perceived differences. And the shared experience of God’s intervention and salvation in our lives bonds us in the commonality of God’s redemptive grace.
- They inspire us to greater faith and implicit trust in God through the example of the people that we meet. The stark contrast between the challenges of our sanitized everyday lives and those faced by our brothers and sisters in under-resourced settings is at the same time both confounding and embarrassing. Their indomitable and joyful spirits in the face of often overwhelming odds convince us that there is a depth to their relationship with God we know not of and long to experience ourselves.
- They help us rediscover the secret to pure joy. True and abiding joy is found most readily in sacrificial giving. That is counter intuitive the Western illusion that joy and happiness are found in monetary gain. At the heart of every outreach is the call to give: both time and money, and most importantly our very selves. In the experience of answering that call we find ourselves tapped into an indescribable fountain of joy. We end up reveling, like Jesus after His ministry to the woman at the well, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” (John 4:32)
- The provide a unique satisfaction that comes only in stepping beyond our comfort zone. Growth in faith and change for good has a price tag. It is discomfort. Outreaches are great catalysts for growth and change because they force us outside of our comfortable and predictable routines. They challenge us to adapt in ways that require trust in God. Nothing does that more dramatically than when we find ourselves way beyond our comfort zone and desperately crying out for His help. Invariably in the end, we simply have to marvel at what God did in spite of our incompetent frailties. And in that way He gets all the glory.
Cross cultural experiences always give us a new perspective. What have you learned through your participation in mission trips and outreaches?
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