Noelle and I got home tonight, and I was really feeling the urge to blog. I asked Noelle what I should write about. In fact, I said anything you tell me to write about, I will do it. She thought and came up with this.
During the last 6 months, 250 college students from theMILL have been preparing for the upcoming missions trip to Africa. Can you believe it? We will dominate the continent as we are going to 6 different countries including Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. A logistical nightmare! This time around, I'm serving in a different role -- a role that is 10 miles high and a role that requires more scrutiny than has ever been demanded of me before. I must say the task has been very satisfying while tapping into my talents as a detailed oriented guy, but at the same time the last 6 months have been quite arduous in nature.
From organizing itineraries for 250 college students to handling team dynamic issues, serving as the Associate Director for MILL Missions has been a learning experience to say the least.
In the past, I've served as a Team Leader which allows me to engage at a level where I'm connected to my team both spiritually and emotionally. About 3 months in or so I'd bump into Aaron Stern at theMILL, and I would ask him if he's ready to cry. You see, when it comes to missions, we are crying buddies! I can remember specific instances where my heart would ache for the lost in ways I've never experienced before. I can recollect moments where I would be so burdened by what the people were burdened by.
In 2006, Laura Goddard and I led a team to China. We went to an area where Buddhism was impacting not only a few people, but its demonic influence was widespread throughout the city. We even visited an a Temple where I could literally feel the demonic oppression. There was a wall that surrounded the city and along this wall were these prayer wheels that the buddhists spun as they hoped for something better. It was so depressing. Anyway, when we got back from that short trip, I remember walking outside of our guest house and weeping because I couldn't get the expressions of those hoping -- longing for a better life. Knowing they weren't going to experience anything but hell and damnation, I wept for them. I felt this pain inside me that wouldn't let go. This example is one of many that I could share on how I connect with the people I've visited. On another level, I make great relationship with my team members. They are my small group for 6 months. I love leading missions teams! It's life-changing.
Anyway, this time around is very different from what I'm used to. With Noelle, I oversee all the Kenya teams that will be going to Africa this summer. We focus our effort on the Team Leaders themselves, so our approach comes with a discipleship mentality. In the beginning, I found myself cramming logistics down their throats. After awhile, I saw that I was more focused on details and making things work versus the spiritual elements that really make things click. Drowning in details can do that. Ensuring itineraries are correct, focusing on the 700K budget, planning the debrief and other things kept steering me away from what really matters. Well, surprise, surprise -- I'm still struggling some with connecting spiritually to this trip. It's frustrating, because one moment, I feel as though the lost are at my doorstep and I can't stop thinking about them. Then the next moment those that need Jesus the most are the furthest thing from my mind. The last couple weeks have been better, but during my prayer times, I still cry out asking the Lord to burden my heart for the lost. As trying as this experience has been, I wouldn't change it. I know that serving in this role has prepared me for great things in the future. I know the Lord is teaching me how to set aside the 'non-important' things and insert Jesus, but I've had to learn by experiencing both ends of the spectrum. Even as I sit here writing my thoughts down, I feel this burning for the lost people of Africa. That's a good feeling!
How is the Lord testing you right now? Are you so focused on the details that you forget to sit back and remember why you are doing something?
In the planning stages of this trip, Noelle and I decided to memorize a passage of scripture. I don't have it memorized, but here it is. It's truth and it needs to be seared in my heart.
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners, [a]
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.