I am often asked or hear the question, “Why should I go on a mission trip instead of just send the money?”
First, I believe in following what Jesus says. The last command He gave, known as the great commission says “GO into all the world and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”
During my trip to Haiti this fall,I spent some time reading the last words Jesus shared with His disciples before he was betrayed and crucified. If I want someone to remember something important, it is usually the last thing I tell them before I go. Jesus had previously summed up the entire law saying we are to love God and love people, love our neighbor (more about that in a bit). What really struck me when I started reading the last words of Jesus was that the last parable in Matthew had to do with taking care of the least of these. Jesus said that someday He would separate His people like a shepherd who separates the sheep and the goats. To the sheep He says, “I was hungry and you feed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison (think here for a second about what that might mean, maybe just a place you are stuck in as well as a real prison) and you came to me… What you did for the least of these you did for me.” To the goats He says …”Depart from me because you have not done these things…” Notice Jesus says you visited me, you came to me… these are action words, they involve personal contact, not just sending money.
One of my favorite stories of Jesus that I think can teach us a lot about this subject is the story of the good Samaritan. In the end, the Samaritan did “give money” and went on his way coming back to check on him, but let’s look at what he did first. The first two men in this story saw the man hurt and walked on the other side of the road, however the Samaritan saw he was hurt and went to him. He bandage the man, he looked him in the eye and opened his arms to help him. I think many times it is easier to walk on the other side of the road and we do this often. We know there are problems in this world, kids starving, people sold into slavery, extreme poverty, people dying… but we choose to walk on the other side of the road, not look these people in the eye, not make it personal. You see going on a trip makes you vulnerable, you are now looking these people in the eye and opening your arms to help them. It doesn’t mean you have to stay forever, like the Samaritan you may have to give money for their care and go on your way to attend to your business but like the first two men in the story, you probably won’t give anything (or very little) until you see these problems as people and make that personal connection. I could put a picture of a malnourished baby on the street and many would walk by and not notice, not give. However if I put that same baby in your hands, your heart will be moved to help her.
In Acts 2 Jesus says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem (local), Judea (national), Samaria (cross culture) and to the ends of the earth (international).” I think it is clear, God wants us to go, He gives us His power to Go… Isaiah 6:8, I heard the voice of the Lord saying “Who will go, who should I send”… and I said, “Here I am, send me.”