Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Mission Trip 2016 ~ New York City {Final Recap}

As our week drew to a close in New York City, the Lord brought into clearer focus for me
several little thought-of facts about mission work in a "foreign" land.
These things challenged me.
Challenged me to pray more consistently.
To find ways to give more generously.
To encourage folks back home to get up and go help missionaries even
if it is only on a short-term trip.
To be bolder in sharing the gospel more lavishly in my own community.

1.)  No matter where a missionary is called to go, whether in their own country
or not, it's a lonely position.

Whenever you relocate anywhere, it can be hard making close friends.
Especially when your neighbors speak an entirely different language,
and their cultures are different.
When you pack up and leave the tiny little town you've only ever known,
the familiar streets, your neighbors, friends, and co-workers to move to
giant place that moves very fast and doesn't seem very friendly.
I was struck with how effective it was for those missionaries we worked with
 to immerse themselves in the culture of New York City
 and to be creative in finding ways
to build a rapport with the locals.
That takes perseverance, determination, and much patience.
None of the churches we visited were your typical, huge, faithfully attended,
multi-facility and activity heavy Baptist churches very common
 in every city of the South.
When walking is the primary mode of transportation, and the street is the only place to park,
you change up your service times to accommodate the needs of your people.
When your buildings are very old, and you are the only staff member you learn
to be creative with what little money is given to keep the repairs up.
Having close friendships at your church can be difficult when attendance
is sparse and the locals don't make church attendance a priority yet
or are still deciding if they want to switch to your church.

2.)   Being a missionary in your home country does not make the work
any easier.
In fact, that could possibly make it even more challenging.
In a third world country, people are naturally drawn to you because
they are curious about the color of your skin or the possessions
you might own simply because you grew up in the United States.
Not so in New York City.
You look and sound exactly like them.
Your culturally different neighbors may not find you as much of a novelty.
It seemed to me that you would really have to put yourself out there, intentionally,
to reach the lost around you.
I noticed that there were always people shoving things into our hands,
or someone entertaining on the subway trains, or someone trying to sell you something.
I imagine that after encountering that day in and day out, you would want to ignore it.
Most everyone on the trains found wearing a pair of earphones
 an effective way of blocking out the world around them.
Reaching the lost in a place like that requires taking
the time to talk to people.
I was mildly surprised at how friendly and engaging most New Yorkers are.
I don't know who started the rumor that they are cold, snobby, and indifferent,
but they probably didn't notice that these people are running
 a frenetic pace of life
and are simply worn down, weary, and empty.
So many of the people that I talked to, from the breakfast lady in the hotel
 to a gentleman on the subway, have to work 7 days a week.
Many of them with many hours of commuting on mass transportation.
In all kinds of weather.
Which leaves very little time for parenting and investing in a marriage.
I did not see lots of children.
There were children, of course, but the farther you went into the heart of 
New York City, the fewer you saw.
I often wondered why people would intentionally choose to live such a
frenzied life.
Then I heard the story of the man from Bangladesh.
Who won the lottery in his country and came to New York.
He bought a small convenience store and eventually brought his family over.
He said he would never go back to Bangladesh.

3.)  Learning your way around mass transportation, which really is not optional
in New York City, takes a mighty act of God's grace in your life!
It blew my mind how well our team leaders understood the layout of the city
and recognized train stations and could always find where we needed to be
at the right time.
We only took the wrong train a couple times, but we never missed our stop!!

4.) We often think the "job" of the missionary is to win the lost.
To bring in great swaths of harvest into God's family.
But what if you don't see but one or two accept Christ as Savior a year?
Maybe none?
Does that mean they must not be doing their job right?

What if you are called to simply throw out the seed?
Let God do the watering and someone else reap the harvest?

I witnessed first hand how being a missionary anywhere takes perseverance,
patience, and determination, and at the end-of-the-day, you may come home with no fruit to show.
We heard that it often takes people of the Muslim faith 10 years from the first
time they hear the name of Jesus to the time 
they are ready to become a Child of God!
That's where faith and trust comes in.
Faith and trust in the Word of God that says "His Word will not return void."
That that church flyer you find thrown on the ground might actually be picked up
by someone else who will in turn visit your church because they wanted
to see what so upset the person that tore it up and threw it away!!

We did not see many saved on this mission trip.
But the seeds scattered throughout this massive city were innumerable.
The lessons in pushing through physical exhaustion (we walked nearly 5 miles everyday not
counting the train rides), and teamwork were invaluable in the lives of each team member.
Trying new ways of sharing the Gospel gave each of us a new desire to 
go home and share with our neighbors.
Exposure to many different cultures that are not common in our home state
gave us a new understanding of why they do
some of the things they do.
The books we read in preparation for this trip (Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret\and
All Out for God) challenged our faith and desire to live a life
singularly focused for God's glory!

God changed my life and heart on this trip.
Seeing it firsthand and meeting the people of this great city has given
me a love for this place that surprised me!!
We will never regret the investment this was in the lives of our girls,
and how their worldview was impacted through this!
It truly was "the adventure of a lifetime!"

No comments: