Whenever John or I tell someone that we are going on a mission trip the question right after “Where are you going?” is usually, “What will you be doing there?” If we are going to a third world country people may wonder what the exact nature of our work is but never question the need for our presence. After all, the physical needs alone in a third world country are monumental. So, why then, would we choose to go on a trip to a country like Estonia? Here’s the thing; the reason we do mission trips is to bring the love of Jesus to the people in the country we feel called to serve. The ultimate goal of any missionary is to lead people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.
On every mission trip we work alongside the missionaries that are already in the country and do what they feel is best to help accomplish the goal of telling people about Christ. In a third world country that usually means feeding the hungry, providing medical care, starting a school for kids who could otherwise not attend, or just meeting basic needs. Essentially we are following the command of James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Our trip to Estonia looked a little different. In Estonia we worked with a church plant called Focus Church. For those not familiar with the term, a church plant is basically a start up church. Estonians will tell you right up front that they are not a religious people. We were told that when the missionaries tell someone they’ve planted a church that person will look at them and say, “You do know you’re in Estonia, right? No one goes to church here.” Our job then is to show them love and let Jesus shine through us. Because even though they don’t have basic needs for things like food and medical care, everybody needs Jesus. He is the one who tells us, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15
Our team members worked on a number of things that needed to be done at the church. The strong people on the team moved chairs, speakers, sound equipment, etc., did some light construction, cleaned out the kitchen, and anything else they were asked to do. For the situations that required more muscle than I have to offer, I like to think I was there to provide prayer support, encouragement, and adult supervision (John and I being the oldest members of the group). There were several events at the church while we were there that we helped set up for; a healing service, a women’s event, and a leadership night.
Another thing we did was help with a community outreach event. The church is on a fairly busy street so the event was held right in front of the building with signs inviting those walking by to join in the festivities. The worship team provided jazz music, there was free cotton candy, and delicious waffles were sold to raise funds for the children’s center I talked about in last week’s blog. Additionally there was a bounce house, face painting, and tours of the church, which looks more like an ordinary building than a church. (John did a lot of those tours and even gave a tour to a Buddhist gentleman.) There may have been other things, too, but I was busy making waffles and might have missed them. They were wise to put me in charge of waffles instead of face painting. Let’s just say I gave up face painting after trying to make my son look like a clown 25 years ago!
Our trip coincided with Focus Church’s one-year anniversary so the outdoor celebration continued on Sunday with the same things we’d had on Saturday except a donut truck replaced the waffles. Don’t worry; I was NOT in charge of making the donuts. Those people were professionals and the donuts tasted as good as they looked.
We also spent an afternoon celebrating birthdays and playing with the kids at Lighthouse Children’s Center, where we’d picked up apples and leaves a few days earlier. We all had a great time and the kids loved it.
My favorite day of the trip though was Monday when we delivered over 300 donuts to the staff members at schools in the area. We tried to arrange it so that we could deliver them to the teacher’s lounge during their morning coffee break. It was fun to meet and talk with some of the teachers. When they asked why we’d brought donuts our reply was “We just want you to know how much we appreciate you and the job you’re doing.” A few teachers asked where we were from and we were able to tell them a little about Focus Church, but if they didn’t ask we just let them enjoy their donuts. The reason I loved it so much is because we could visibly see the surprise and gratefulness on the teacher’s faces for such a simple act of kindness.
The awesome part of this whole thing is it can be done anywhere. Everything we did in Estonia could be replicated right in our own hometown. Being called to do it in Estonia was just a bonus. But anyone can bring donuts to the teachers at their local school, or offer to do light construction for someone, or show love to a lonely neighbor. Wherever we find ourselves is the place we can be the hands and feet of Christ. We are called to show His love to a hurting world.
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” – Teresa of Ávila.