Final thoughts may be a tad misleading. I’m sure I’ll continue to think about this for a long time. In fact, I hope I never stop thinking about it. In terms of my posts for you, though, this is it. I’ve been told by a couple people how great this is because when teams return from trips, it’s always really hard to recap or share everything they’ve done. It can be quite overwhelming. At least you have this to know what we’ve done and the team has it to remember the specifics. Just a tip: if you are in a situation where you don’t have that much time and you ask someone from the team how the trip went, don’t be surprised to receive a “good.” If you want to know specifics or a lengthy report, take a team member out. Have them over for dinner or coffee or something. These trips are life-changing experiences and to force a team member to share what they’ve gleaned from it in under 5 minutes might be selling them a little short (but that could also just my own opinion). Shoot, I might just give you the link to this site. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it. It’s just that there’s a whole lot of substance to share. But anyways, I just took too long to share that.
There are a lot of things I’m going to miss about the last 2 weeks, ranging from family dinners with new friends to all the tuk-tuk rides that I got to enjoy. It was fun watching our teens sharing testimonies. It was fun sharing life with a new group people and learning their stories. It was fun watching Brian and Trevan eat balut (basically, an unborn chick from the egg. really, you need to ask them about it). It was fun giving different kids all the gifts that YOU donated to them. I ate a mango for the first time. I ate an entire meal with chopsticks for the first time (I’ve been called the worst Asian ever… it’s true). I spoke with a translator for the first time. These were all some pretty cool things, but there’s still so much more to take away from it.
I’m still trying to process everything I’ve learned from this trip. We did a lot of things and we saw a lot of things. Each of which were an experience in and of themselves. I can’t say I’ve ever walked down a street full of hundreds of prostitutes trapped in trafficking. I can’t say I’ve ever stood on top of a mountain comprised of garbage. I can’t say that I’ve ever fed a ton of kids who don’t have clothes or showers (or homes for some). I can’t say that I’ve ever visited strangers in their homes in the projects or slums. Honestly, I can’t say that I’ve ever wanted to do any of those things. That doesn’t mean that I wish I hadn’t. I’m thankful that I got to experience all of those things because I’ve been able to see the hands and feet of God moving in each of those places. I’ve gotten the opportunity to see God’s people feed the homeless. I’ve gotten to see His church rescue girls from the sex industry. I’ve gotten to see His blessings stretch across the globe. I’ve gotten to see the lost and broken come to know Him. And that is an experience that I will never forget or take for granted.
Prayer is essential and the people we met and partnered with realize that more than anyone else I’ve met. We pray before ministry. We pray during ministry. We pray after ministry. There were times when I thought I was actually present in the book of Acts. One lady in the Philippines, before we went on a prayer walk, talked as if she was Paul (“we will do this and if the Lord leads us to do this, then we will. if the Lord wants us to move here, then we will.”). It was so great to hear that because it reminded me that the Bible isn’t only about what happened then. It also gives us the model of how we should live in the Spirit, following the voice of God.
We have a tendency to rely on our resources to the point where we may not think to rely on God. Yes, we have been blessed beyond measure compared to most of the world, but that doesn’t mean our dependency on God isn’t as great. Last I checked, our resources don’t provide our way into heaven. We don’t need God any less than people who live on a mountain of trash. If anything, we only recognize our need for Him less. Shame on me if I ever continue to think that way. And shame on me if I ever think that the Gospel is not enough.
I’m from California and in that beautiful, sunny, Golden State, we have this warped idea that we have to always have the latest and greatest. As it might be most prevalent in CA, it’s really all over the US. People are constantly looking for the next big thing and it’s hard to keep that mindset from affecting our churches. We need to have this style of music. We need to have this type of video. A lot of the times, it’s not even the church leaders that think that way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having the latest and greatest. A large part of my job has to do with music, lighting, videos, and stage design, and I love it. But let’s not forget that those are supposed to be used to compliment what is already most important. The Gospel of Jesus is what is most important. Hearing God’s voice and praising His Name are essential. Being the body of Christ is and growing together as a family are crucial. Music style, lighting, videos – these things aren’t even secondary. I’ve never met someone who grew closer to the Lord because the stage lights looked a certain way. I’ve never met someone who heard God’s voice more clearly based on the temperature of the room.
I remember writing after one of our first days in the Philippines about how we prayed for someone to accept Jesus during a house visit. What was important in that moment was to encourage them to read the Bible, pray, and find people who could help them build their relationship with God. It’s not like that’s the goal in the beginning and then after a while, we encourage them to get more picky about their church. We were in uncomfortable places. We had church on a street loud, busy street corner. We had church in a small, hot room with no air conditioner while it was 90 degrees out with 80% humidity and we had one loud, piercing speaker. We also had church in the YWAM base with air conditioning. What makes all these places church is that the body of Christ came together to preach the Word and glorify the Lord. That’s what church is. It’s not about entertainment. It’s about Jesus.
I’m sorry if it sounds like I just hopped on a soapbox with a megaphone, but I’m not sorry if that rubs you the wrong way. As I already said, the more “entertaining” aspects of our particular church are what I think of for a living. There’s nothing wrong with them. I want to be a part of a church because God has called me there and because I am growing closer to Him through being a part of that family. That is going to require all of us to take ownership of. You guys took great ownership in contributing towards God’s work across the globe. That is awesome. I am SO proud of our church for that. People need Jesus and you played a part in allowing us to represent Jesus to them. Accepting Jesus isn’t the end, though. It’s just the beginning and just as we are helping people in Cambodia and the Philippines to grow closer to Christ, let’s not forget that we need that too. I need to grow closer to Christ. I need to be praying. I need to be in His Word. I need to be praising His Name. I need to be teaching the Gospel. I don’t need that because I work in a church. I don’t need that because I’m a worship leader or because I’m a youth pastor. Those are just my assignments from God. I need to be doing those things because I am a Christian and I represent Christ to the world.
That’s what this whole missions trip was about. That’s what every missions trip is about – being Christ to the world. I’m glad that I got to see what that meant in those two countries. Now it’s time to take what I’ve learned and figure out what means back here in Billings. I hope you felt like you were a part of us while we were gone. I hope our reports encouraged you to know that you are a part of the Great Commission. And I hope that you join me in this endeavor to represent Jesus Christ wherever we go.
May God bless you in your continued search for Him. While you have been praying for us in our specific mission the last two weeks, I’m going to do my part in praying for you as well. I will also continue to pray for the people that we’ve come across in the countries we visited, but we have a church family here who has the same mission, too. I will pray for our family. We might not be in poverty or enslaved in trafficking, but we still engage in spiritual warfare. I have learned that prayer and praise are two of the biggest ways to start taking back ground for the Lord. His presence is the biggest difference, whether it’s in a place or a person. Jesus is the difference. Jesus is the Savior. Jesus is the King.