Mission trips & God’s foolishness

The USF Chapel Center mission trip is just a few weeks away!

It’s a funny thing about mission trips.  If you’ve not been on one, the idea may seem to you—as it did to me at one time—perhaps a little foolish.  After all, I’m not a carpenter, plumber, electrician, or of any other profession that would be at all useful at a building site.  So, what’s the point in me traveling cross country for a service project?   Wouldn’t the cause be better served if I opened my checkbook rather than packed my suitcase?

On the other hand, once you have been on a mission trip, you see things differently.  Usually there is something about the experience that opens your heart and just stays with you.

My first real mission trip was traveling several years ago to New Orleans during the summer.  Our church crew worked with Episcopal Relief and Development on a variety of houses in the 9th Ward and nearby neighborhoods.   It had been quite some time since Katrina but the remains of the destruction and the enormity of the recovery work still ahead was overwhelming.  We spend our first work day mucking out debris from a house that had been destroyed twice–first by water and later by fire.  By the end of the day we were exhausted, filthy, hot and very thirsty.

We stopped on the way back to our lodgings to gas up the van and went into the store to buy cold drinks.  Two well dressed African American women ahead of us in the line at the cash register sized us up with a glance as we waited.  They finished paying for their purchase and before heading out the door, turned around to us and said simply:

“Thank you for the work you are doing here.  Thank you for coming to our city.  God bless you.”

Ask me why, of all the memorable experiences we had that week, that one exchange with  strangers remains especially with me and I cannot give you an easy answer.  Perhaps it is God’s foolishness that we head out again and again to mission trips, knowing that there is really little we can do to help in some situations but knowing it’s important that we try.

It’s not just the work we do on the mission trip but our presence for others there that lets them know they have not been forgotten.  It’s not just the experience of a short summer trip but the witness we carry back to our own community as we share stories again and again of what we have seen and experienced.

There are lots of web options now for finding volunteer work and mission opportunities.  The following are mostly from an excellent recent issue of US News & World Report (Nov 2010) focusing on public service:

Episcopal Relief & Development

Catholic Charities USA

Samaritan’s Purse

Global Volunteers

Charity Guide

Volunteer Match

HandsOn Network

Urban Ministry

Christian Volunteering

So, what about the foolishness of mission trips?

Just remember….

“God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:25

More to come.  Thanks for reading!

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