The rule of thumb is that a preacher puts in 1 hour of prep work for every minute of a finished sermon. I just spent 123 hours on the Mission Trip. That 123 hours of prep work would translate to 123 minutes of finished sermon. The way I figure it is that I have roughly…2 hours and 3 minutes…to deliver this sermon! SO…get comfortable!!
I want to share with you what I’ve learned from spending this past week out in the mission field. I call it “You May Be On a Mission Trip If…” You may be on a mission trip if you find yourself regularly having NO IDEA what’s happening next. You may be on a mission trip if you’re so used to wearing a name tag you realize you’re wearing it in the shower. You may be on a mission trip if you’re nodding off in worship…at 7 p.m. You may be on a mission trip if peanut butter and jelly 2 meals a day…EVERY day…seems normal. You may be on a mission trip if dry, clean socks are a luxury. You may be on a mission trip if you’ve grown to actually enjoy the feel of a nylon sleeping bag against your skin while you sleep. And you may be on a mission trip if camo shorts and a t-shirt are your Sunday dress clothes!
What else did I learn? Well, I learned about Graeter’s Ice Cream, where Buckeye Blitz on a pretzel cone is nearly Nirvana. I learned that Buca di Beppo isn’t a rapidly spreading disease but is instead an Italian restaurant…or a chain of Italian restaurants…that features family-styled food that…is…AMAZING!! I learned that, even though breakfast is at 7:15AM, it’s best to go at 6:55AM to beat the crowd, and it’s best to toast your bagel and pour your bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios BEFORE packing your lunch, because most people fix their breakfast first…but come later than you, so this schedule allows you to avoid a line at BOTH places! I learned the importance of taking good care of the Ziploc bag your lunch is in…because it’s the only one you’ll get…all week! I learned that getting to dinner earlier than the 6PM start time didn’t help…they changed the order of which table went first every day! I learned that, just like my mom when I was a kid, we were going to eat whatever they served…and like it! I learned that my Associate Pastor is even more of a gracious human being than I thought- he was SUPPOSED to room with a relatively normal guy, but a snafu on the part of the Cincinnati mission staff had him instead stuck rooming with me and my son! And he never once complained about it…at least not that I know!
Perhaps the greatest thing I learned is how prevalent God is in those around you…if you’re willing to take the time and effort to look. At Stepping Stones, a 9-week summer day camp for kids with disabilities, I learned that there is no kissing in camp. A young man who was a camper there apparently had some issues with wanted to kiss others and had been told, many times and in no uncertain terms, that there was NO kissing in camp. So he took it upon himself to walk around and tell everyone that fact! I also met Billy- a little boy with Down’s Syndrome. He was completely devoid of verbal communication. I was warned that he would run…and he lived up to that warning. He would sit stock still for 30 minutes, then hop up and run off in the blink of an eye. I found myself running across the lawn more than once, chasing this little boy. I was also warned that he would scratch and bite…and he lived up to that warning, too. He scratched me three times, drawing blood once, and tried, fortunately unsuccessfully, to bite me several times. The counselors called him Spinner, because he could literally spin ANYTHING on the tip of his finger, something I was sadly unable to do! I met Dalton- an older boy with autism. He was shorter than me but heavier than me, and because he had no verbal communication, I learned sign language…water…drink… food…and sadly…sorry…because he punched me…twice, the first one taking my breath away because I didn’t see it coming, he tried to bite me several times, and when I would tell him that was wrong, he would tell me he was sorry (sign language) and want to kiss me on the cheek. So apparently for me there WAS kissing in camp- seven times! He also wanted to hold my hand while we walked together. I also met Nathan– he was almost as tall as me, heavier than me and very verbal (he knew LOTS of really bad words). He attacked another kid in the pool, and when the female staff members in the pool tried to get him out…they couldn’t. They got him to the pool ladder, but couldn’t get him any farther. I could see that things were only going to escalate, and I was concerned he would hurt one of them, so I ran over to the edge of the pool, grabbed him under the armpits and hauled him out of the pool! THAT’S when I heard the really bad words he knew! And yet, later he asked me if I would help him find his jacket and then thanked me for finding it.
I learned that many people who live in really dangerous neighborhoods don’t want to be there and are perfectly good folks. I also learned that drug dealers don’t know what to do with pasty white folks who walk up and start talking to them! I learned that people appreciate outside effort made in their community garden, especially ladies with cute little dogs named Barack Obama! I learned that a Middle School girl named Shanikwa desperately wants to get a good education, reading anything she can get her hands on, because she wants to get out of her Over the Rhine neighborhood and do great things with her life.
I learned that Honey, Harold, Betsy Ross, Rayburn, Jimmy and the other residents of the Lincoln Crawford Nursing Home love to make hats, necklaces and bracelets, love to stuff little bears and love to eat pancakes…but what they love most is when folks spend time with them. I made a hat for one woman named Ruby, and when I asked her what she wanted on her hat, she said she wanted her mom’s name on it because she wanted to give it to her. Understand that Ruby was in her mid 80’s! She also wanted me to paint a Nativity scene on the hat…so the other thing I learned was that I really stink at painting Nativity scenes on hats!!
At the Meals on Wheels location, I learned that carrying desks and shelving units up a flight of stairs…so many times that I came within two stories of climbing the equivalent of the Empire State Building…literally…is a REALLY good cardio workout! (If you don’t die from it, that is!) And I learned that adversity brings out the best in people. We worked hard, we slept in strange beds, or mattresses on the floor, we did things that were WAY out of our comfort zones…and we had a great time- we worked, we talked, we prayed, we worshiped, we sang, we laughed…we cried…and we saw the face of God…in each other…in the other people we served with…and in the people of Cincinnati we went there to help. Most folks who go on a Mission Trip for the first time go expecting to give…to help other people. And, hopefully, you do! But what most figure out along the way is that, no matter how much you give, in the end you get MUCH more in return. The blessing you receive, both from the people you serve with AND more so from God, is beyond what you possibly imagined when you went.
Matthew 28:16-20– Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
People ask, “Why do you go so far away when there are needs right here in your own county?” Good question! Here’s my answer- when you take people out of their daily routine, out of their usual patterns, out of their BED, for goodness sake, they’re able to focus SO much more on the reason they’re there. It takes them out of their comfort zone and forces them to rely on other people…and especially rely on God. I can’t tell you how many lives I’ve seen changed over the years by Mission Trips. I have a handful of Mission Trip alum who have gone on to serve God is vital ministries as their chosen profession. It’s truly awesome!
I saw great things this week. I saw lives touched, hearts softened, attitudes altered- it was truly amazing. AND…I saw incredible things from our Mission Team. They worked HARD this week- and I NEVER ONCE heard them complain!! They truly were the hands and feet of God, carrying His light into a world that so desperately needs to experience it. How will YOU serve God this week? This month? This year? Step out in faith- you will be amazed at what God can do in you, with you, and through you! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed Sunday! Please come back tomorrow to start your week with me, and stick with Jesus!