"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NIV)
While even the phrase itself can evoke an image of exotic adventure, ‘the ends of the earth’ don’t seem nearly as far away as they did just a few years ago.
We still sing “Christ shall have dominion” over “Earth's remotest regions,” but fewer places remain so remote that we can’t Skype, text, tweet, update our Facebook status, or get at least one bar of signal strength.
Because ‘the ends of the earth’ are closer than ever before, practically anyone can — and very many do — take part in some sort of mission trip. But the motive for participating in a mission trip needs to go much deeper than ‘I can go so I will.’ Christ demands and deserves far more than volun-tourism.
I recently had the pleasure of spending three days with some amazing individuals who took part in this year’s Volunteer Orientation workshops, organized by World Renew, CRWM and ServiceLink. While the group was comprised of all ages and various skill-sets and life experiences, it was particularly inspiring to meet the many young adults who are eager to serve and support the work being done on every continent by long-term CRCNA missionaries and partner agencies. God’s blessing of enthusiasm, joy, humility, and compassion was clearly evident among these volunteers.
At the commissioning service, Caspar Geisterfer, who serves as a CRWM missionary in Honduras, reminded the volunteers,
“we are the most mobile people in the world, always going. But we need to remember that we are ‘going’ with a message to bring. Serving as a mission volunteer is not another experience to check off the list, like white-water rafting, backpacking or zip-lining. Instead, we have to shed ourselves, and go as representatives of the family of God. We must not only introduce people to ‘our House’, but we also need to say ‘come, join us, there is room here for you."
Yes, part of the volunteer orientation process involves peeling back some of the layers of our North American mindset. Yes, it is important to understand that some of the words, actions, and habits that we take for granted in Canada or the U.S. can have completely different meanings in other countries. But even a lifetime of cross-cultural training is insufficient if we depend on our own skills and abilities.
Rather than endlessly piling on more layers of information, the most important quality for serving globally, or locally, is simply to reflect the characteristics of our Master. We need ears that are attuned to the cries of the suffering and oppressed, eyes that can pierce the darkness of injustice, hearts overflowing with gentleness and compassion, and hands that are eager to serve with humility. Wherever God calls us to serve, these are the garments He instructs us to wear.
And please remember to pray for the volunteers who either already or very soon will be journeying to Mexico, Cambodia, Mali, Nicaragua, Ukraine, Nigeria, Bangladesh and elsewhere to offer themselves as ‘servants for Christ’. Through their words and actions, they are delivering the most important invitation of all — the invitation to join the Family of God.