Outreach can be a fun adventure filled with excitement. I mean think about it. You’re out there in the middle of nowhere in some foreign country, getting immersed in a new culture that you’ve never experienced before in your life. You’re preaching the gospel to people that have never felt the love of Jesus. You get to be the first person that witnesses people’s lives change, and you’re doing that with a group of people that are just as on fire for God as you are. Sounds awesome, right?
Those of us who’ve been on multiple outreaches know that more often than not, it doesn’t look like what I just described. Outreaches can be an extremely tough season. In the midst of the hard trials though, it can be an opportunity to grow in our faith. When we’re doing God’s work and going to the hard to reach places that He calls us to, or when we step out of our comfort zone and really lean on Jesus for strength and direction—well, there’s just nothing quite like it.
If you haven’t been a mission trip at all, it could be very easy for you to be anxious or even fearful of just the idea of you talking to others about your faith. A good friend once said: “the nervousness never goes away because the concept of faith never goes away”. Even when we’ve been a christian for a long time and have been on several mission trips, we still have to lean on God for strength. We believe that a lot of the inaccuracy with how we view mission trips comes from this idea that when we’re on outreach, that we’re also taking on this responsibility of being someone’s savior.
The truth is, mission trips aren’t that way at all. There is a level of urgency attributed to mission trips, because for lack of a better term, we are basically doing a ‘search and rescue’. There are souls out there that don’t know anything a
bout Jesus, and He wants us to find them and invite them into His Kingdom. However, we shouldn’t go into an outreach with the belief that it’s up to us to save those souls, or that it’s all about how many things we can cross off our ‘christian checklist’.
Mission trips are really about one thing: Jesus. They’re about sharing who He is and what He’s done. Not just what He’s done for us all, but He’s done for us personally as individuals. We go out into all the world to share Jesus and to bring others to Him.
In this very moment YWAM Louisville has 4 teams out around the world preaching the Gospel, sharing their testimonies of God’s love, and inviting people into God’s Kingdom. We have teams in South Africa, Chile and Southern Asia. We asked a couple people on these trips to share a real experience from their trip that really shows what a mission trip actually looks like.
Here is a story from Kimberly. She is a student and she’s currently with her team in Vietnam.
We’ve been teaching English through stories about God to students at a coffee shop near where we are staying. The last couple weeks I made a friend that comes and she doesn’t know God. At the end of each lesson we ask them what they didn’t understand about the story and hear really interesting questions. To most of the students, God is just a character because they’ve never even heard of Him before. Last week we told them the story about when Jesus fed 5,000 people. My friend that has been coming said she was confused. She said that from the things she’s heard Him do in these stories He couldn’t have just been a normal person. Because a normal person can’t calm storms with their voice, and they can’t feed 5,000 people with only a small amount of food. She said the only thing that would make sense is that He isn’t ordinary and the things He has done are all miracles. She asked how He did it. I told her that she was right. A normal person couldn’t have done these things. And that’s why Jesus did them. Because He is powerful, and He has a kind heart. He doesn’t want people to go hungry and He does miraculous things for people because He loves them. She said she loved that and she sees how He is good. It’s been amazing to see the students make these connections about God’s heart and character through very simple stories that we’ve told them. We are not trying to convince them of anything, only telling them stories about what He has done and they see how He loves people.A mission trip or an outreach isn’t about saving people. It also isn’t about convincing other people of what we believe. It’s about sharing about what God has done and who He is. The success of a mission trip is not determined by the number of people that we witness accept Jesus. The Gospel isn’t just good news, it’s also in invitation. When we share the Gospel, we are sharing what God has done for us, but we’re also inviting them into His story that is already taking place. Don’t get me wrong, mission trips will be filled with cliche worship songs and the like, but the heart of why we go into all the world is much deeper than that.
Here is another story from Kelly, one of our staff members who is also out on outreach with a team right now.
While teaching English at a coffee shop we have been able to make some pretty wonderful friends who come to practice english with actual english speakers.
Each class, we share a story from the Bible and help them to memorize it and process what the story means. While helping my friend to pronounce her words correctly, she looked at me and said, ‘I really like this Jesus.’
‘Ya? Why is that?’
‘Because he is powerful (we told the story of how he had calmed the storm the class before.), but I think he also has a very kind heart (after she heard the story of Jesus feeding 5000 people.) I like him very much.’
I asked her if she had ever heard these stories before. ‘No,’ she replied. ‘But I want to hear more.’
Many people here are just like my friend, who has never once heard the name of Jesus. But as they hear stories about him, even with out knowing they are stories of the book and that they are real, God is moving in their hearts.
The Bible is full of stories, but so are we. We as Christians believe that God is always working in our lives. There’s always something to talk about when we surrender ourselves and pursue a relationship with Jesus. A mission trip isn’t about how well we can preach or about how convincing we are. Just like Kimberly and Kelly said in their stories—once we start talking about Jesus and showing His love to others with how we relate, God moves in their hearts. Building churches, giving away bibles, and praying for people are all good things that we should definitely do, but if we’re not sharing about Jesus and who He is, we missed the point.