I thought I would share a few initial thoughts about our trip. Many folks may ask, "Okay, now what?" "What can we do?" They are good questions.
To answer them I think it is important to consider how we first need to come to grips with Jesus' commandment to "go into the world and make disciples of all nations," commonly known as the Great Commission, but also known in some churches as the "Great Omission" (Mt. 28:16-20). When Jesus says "go into the world," he means "go into the world." The mission is to teach all people. Persons who think we need to help only "here" and not "there" miss the point: God does not divide the world into "here" and "there." In biblical terms, "here" is always "there" and "there" is always "here." God doesn't see a "here" and a "there" but rather sees "everywhere here and there" and vice versa. God so loves the world! It is heresy to think otherwise.
The other point to keep in mind is that we Americans have a mindset that wants to get the job done. In other words, we tend to focus on what we can do. Or, as Claudia Wertz reminded us, we forget that sometimes the most important thing we can do is simply show up. That is, in traveling to Africa the most important thing we did was get off the plane! In doing so, we sent a message that said, "You matter!" We didn't have to do anything. Rather, we simply had to arrive, to show up.
I share these two points because I realized again on this trip how important prayer is to the life of faith and how important it is to support the mission of the church with our prayers. Prayer, of course, is the key to the Christian life. Without prayer we wither and die; we simply cannot meet the demands and challenges of the day with a Christ-like spirit. We cannot carry out the mission of God's kingdom with love and compassion. However, with prayer we can become what Christ called us to become. We can serve the Lord with joy and gladness. Or, or Lowell stated, we can realize that mission is fun! With prayer we can rejoice and give thanks.
This is why I would like to offer a few specific requests that I feel we all can practice as we think about joining our brothers and sisters in Christ on the mission field in Africa and around the world. I offer these requests knowing how prayer can make a difference and how it can provide the means of growing in faith and discipleship:
First, we can pray that God will use Grace Church to support our missionaries overseas. We have the privilege to provide assistance to several great families. Let's continue this support.
Second, we can pray that our support for persons like Lowell and Claudia will continue to grow and that our support for the mission of Joy in the Harvest will continue to provide a network of love for the people of Kigoma. When you realize that Joy in the Harvest is the only way many people receive assistance, you realize how important the support is. Prayer can move us to do what God is doing.
Third, we can pray that what we give is given out of love, and that what we give is given out of the great love Christ has for us. The two go hand-in-hand. We cannot rent asunder prayer and mission.
These are a few thoughts I have had since returning to Franklin. As we move into the Advent and Christmas Seasons, we will want to keep these requests in plain view and to remember that it is not always about doing so much as it is about showing up, giving thanks, and realizing we all matter.