It's always interesting when one of your lessons comes back to be found within your own life. This last week we've been unpacking suitcases and trying to get settled in while still catching up with people and having a few preliminary meetings to see what's been going on with the different churches that we work with in Tanzania. One of those meetings was with a local pastor who was recently ordained in the conference. He came to meet with us even though one of his children was sick so when he left the meeting he went straight to the hospital where his wife had taken their child. He called as I was in the middle of finding one more shelf to unload a suitcase onto to let me know he had made it and that they were about to head home with the child and NO treatment. They didn’t have the money to pay so that the hospital would start the treatment. All of that time, energy, and travel with nothing to show for it.
As Liz and I spoke at churches this summer we were able to speak to a youth group and the main point of our talk was this…mission starts with relationships. Many people are very willing to give, help, and do what they can for others. Liz and I have seen this time and again with short term mission teams, churches we speak at, and the generosity of people this summer as we tried to prepare for our first biological child. The challenge that I think most people have to living missions on a daily basis, the tragedy of the middle class/upper class church is that many good Christians don’t know any poor people. I don’t mean that they don’t know what part of town the poor live in, I mean they don’t know any of their names let alone the names of their children or what may be happening in their lives. They don’t have a relationship with someone who lives on the edge without all of the safety nets that we are accustomed to. They don’t have a colleague or friend that will call them needing help with a $20 hospital bill. Possibly equally sad is that so few of the poor have a Christian friend that they know they can call and receive that help. These types of relationships are the start of missions and missional living. If you really want to help someone, if you really want to be God’s light in the world, you have to know something about them and what they need or what they are struggling with. This is the beginning of being able to display God’s love to someone else.
Mission starts with relationships, and is not all about money. Find somebody this week that is different than you, find somebody that needs something you can offer. I think you will be surprised at how many times that same person has something that you need. The challenging part is stepping outside of our comfort zone to get to know people that are not like us, that may need us. Jacob was able to get the help he needed and his child got the treatment that she needed. I did not have to hesitate because I already know Jacob and his family, and that caring for his family is just an extension of my relationship with him. If mission starts with relationships, who are you going to introduce yourself to this week?