In my experience, most mission endeavors are rooted in a desire to help other people. But what fuels this desire? I often hear people say, of a particular mission effort, “I got more out of it than I gave.”
I don’t always know what people mean by this statement.
It can mean,
“It feels so good to do something helpful. I’m glad I took the time to do this.”
Or, it can mean,
“I’m so glad I came today. Those people really needed the gifts/skills that I can offer. I’m glad I could help.”
Or, it could mean,
“I thought I was going to make a change in this person’s life. However, what I discovered is a need for change in my own life.”
I suspect the last option is less frequently implied, largely because we often don’t take the time to really process what we are doing, why we are doing it, and what the activity really means.
How often do we take the time, before we engage in a mission effort, to ask some important questions:
- What are we doing?
- Why are we doing it?
- What assumptions do we bring to this project?
- What expectations do we bring to this project?
Following a mission experience, do we take time to ask some follow-up questions:
- What surprised you about this experience? Why? [Or, what was different from what you expected?]
- What did you learn about others?
- What did you learn about yourself?
- How do you feel about this experience? Are you struggling with anything?
Taking time before and after prepping and de-briefing, even for a 2 hour shift in a local food pantry, is invaluable. Are we just going through the motions because “it’s the right thing to do?” Are our students seeking check marks on their “community service hours log”? Are we earnestly seeking to make a difference? Regardless of what brings us to a mission experience, every act of service offers an opportunity for us to dig deeper in our own understanding of who we are, who our neighbors are, and how our God connects us.
Lilla Watson, an indigenous Australian activist, is given credit for a quote that she says is a collective belief drawn from her experiences in multiple activist groups:
“If you are coming to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you are coming because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together.”
What do we need to be liberated from? How is our liberation bound up in the lives of the people we seek to help?
When we engage in mission, before we return our work tools and paintbrushes and head home in our separate cars, let’s not neglect to ask important questions.
Prayer Focus: Pray for families who are homeless and preparing for the start of the school year.
You are back!!
Blessed to be in ministry with you,
Rev. Kerry Smith Pastor Greenland Hills UMC 5835 Penrose Ave Dallas TX 75206 http://www.greenlandhills.org 214-826-2060
Thanks for this, Mary. In my experience, mission is at its best mutually transformative as we each recognize our need for the other and their role in our own formation as disciples.