It was a really quick two months at Indonesia. I’ve grown and learnt so much more than I thought I would. We all have pre-conceived notions on what mission trips are supposed to be like. Or volunteering, or volun-tourism, or how an NGO should work. But things seldom unfold according to your pre-conceived notions. Many more things you wouldn’t expect might just pop up.
I used to think that missions is about the number of people you brought to Christ. It is the amount of financial aid you throw into a village. Or on a more professional level, the number of workshops and trainings you give to the local staff team. There must be some kind of indicators to qualify a successful mission trip, just like how a business organization functions. I think many of us are being indoctrinated into such a mindset.
But I learnt that wholistic mission is simply journeying with the people on the ground and slowly witnessing transformation, transformation because they have encountered Christ through His people. We shouldn’t come in with a savior’s complex, thinking these people are pitiful and need our help. That is stepping on their dignity. Yes, there are moments and areas they really need help. But helping should be a partnership. So, never step on their dignity, in the process of helping.
So, we go because we want to build relationships with the people. We want them to know they are worth journeying with. We want to invest our time and energy on them. By building relationships with them, they come to realize that they are worth knowing. In doing so, we dignify them. Just like how Jesus dignified us by coming down to earth to know us, to journey through life with us.
We build relationships because we want to listen to their stories. Before we present what we think they need, we must listen to their story. Yes, they need God. But often they don’t need God in the way you think they need God. If we fail to listen to their stories and needs, we are telling them of a God who doesn’t care about their stories and needs. That is when we completely miss it. By listening to their stories, we show them that God listens. We are God’s representatives, and our God is a God who listens intently. How then can we not listen to them? It is always an exchange.
One day in the car, Adam’s wife asked me, “Joey what do you want to get out of this whole trip?”
It was a difficult question, because I didn’t come here expecting to get anything out of it. I am an outward-looking person. I came here with the intention to contribute and value add. To which she said, “We’ve been telling you the areas we could benefit from your help, but we haven’t heard from you how we could help you grow and learn in your time here.” I finally offered a response saying how I would learn and grow as I spend my time here. The lessons would come to me and it sure did.
I think one of the most enjoyable things in life is learning. And lessons learnt MUST be recorded. So, I make it a habit to write down a growth list, a list of lessons learnt, insights received, and reflections from observations. So my growth list grew.
As you go to places, you will grow a lot. Although your intention is to give, but you will inevitably receive. And that isn’t a bad thing. You should receive, because it is always an exchange. It has to be. That’s what a relationship is all about. When you look at how everything unfolds from God’s point of view, I believe it brings Him so much joy.
First, His people are responding to His heartbeat for the unreached or least reached. Second, His people are building relationships with them. Third, you, His child, are growing in the process of all these. Fourth, as relationships are forged, there is reconciliation, between God’s people and the unreached. God’s plan to reconcile humankind back to Him and to restore a broken relationship.
Many last notes before you go to the field. Remain flexible. Plans will keep changing. If you are good with kids or toddlers or babies, that is a huge bonus, you will interact with them a lot. Understand the workings of a communal society and flow along with it. If you are an introvert like me, learn to conserve and recharge your energy, because you get drained really fast when you are always with people. Please do not hide in your ‘cave’ and cut off from the people because they are really interested to know and interact with you. Try not to use your phone when in a group setting. Ask plenty of questions. Every week is different, and your role will morph over the weeks. When it changes, adapt quickly and change accordingly.
All of the above, will help make your stay on the field much more pleasant, and the people will find it enjoyable to host you. These are just some small insights I collected in my two months there.
Lastly, may you see God’s heartbeat. Don’t miss it. And may you also learn of God’s heartbeat. Don’t misinterpret it.