Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday Musings - Missions

There are several definitions for the word missions, but the one that I typically think of and am referring to today is " the vocation or calling of a religious organization, especially a Christian one, to go out into the world and spread its faith." I've been thinking a lot about missions lately as one of the items on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list is to go on a missions trip, so I recently chose a couple of books to read centered around this idea.
Of Stillness and Storm by Michele Pheonix is a novel about a missionary family in Nepal. The story is told from Lauren's point of view. She met her husband, Sam, at a short term Bible school during their college years. After several years of marriage and the birth of their son, Ryan, Sam feels called to go to Nepal to reach primitive tribes in the Himalayas. Despite Lauren's reservations about how the move would affect their son, they spend several years raising funds and commit to a four-year stint in Nepal.

The primitive conditions are difficult - no hot water, unreliable electricity, fierce rainstorms during monsoon season, etc. Sam spends three weeks at a time out ministering to the needy in remote areas, then one week at home preparing for his next trip. Lauren works at a job she does not find fulfilling, and Ryan becomes more and more distant and angry. In the midst of this, Lauren reconnects with an old friend on Facebook, and becomes emotionally entangled in his life and recent cancer diagnosis. Through flashback chapters, we learn more about Sam and Lauren's relationship, and through Facebook and chat messages, we learn about Lauren and Aidan's friendship.

[Spoiler Alert - skip this paragraph is you don't want to know what happens in the end!] The tension in this family becomes even greater when Ryan walks in on Lauren talking to Aidan on Skype. He is already struggling with the fact that his dad is gone most of the time, that he did not want to move to Nepal in the first place, and now he thinks his mom is having some kind of affair. The family has been in Nepal for two years and Ryan is 13-years-old when he attempts suicide, changing the family dynamics once again. Sam and Lauren both struggle as they wait to see if Ryan will recover. He does, and Lauren takes him home to the States for therapy and rehab . . . while Sam chooses to remain in Nepal and continue his missions work.

The author of this book is the daughter of missionaries and now advocates, consults and teaches on topics relating to Missionary Kids (MKs). In this novel, she is trying to shed light on the difficulties that some MKs encounter. This is not necessarily the case for the majority of missionary families, however, I found this book very disheartening and really wanted it to have a more satisfying ending. [Note: I received this book free from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.]
In contrast, I Am Going is a non-fiction book reminding Christians that we are all called to spread the gospel. It does not necessarily state that it will be easy, but it is a more positive look at mission work. This is a short book, broken up into chapters about going on mission: with your church, to your neighborhood, to the nations, to your job, with your job, and anywhere. Both of the authors share examples from their own missions work over the years.

This is an easy-to-read book. It was informative, although I did not find it particularly exciting or motivating. The authors are both associated with Southern Baptist seminaries, so there is some emphasis on the Baptist denominations beliefs that would make this a good extra reading in seminary courses. However, those same ideas might distract others from the main message of this book - that we are all called to spread the Gospel. [Note: I received this book free from B&H Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]

Honestly, I'm not sure that either of these books were extremely motivating or encouraging as we look at opportunities for a missions trip. Instead, my motivation comes from the belief that we are all called to share the love of Christ with others and my desire to step outside my usual comfort zone in serving the Lord. There are several places we've considered going as we have missionary friends in these areas - Manila, Philippines; Kenya, East Africa; Andhra Pradesh, India. However, we'll see where the Lord opens a door (hopefully) in the coming year.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.  
Matthew 28:18-20

Have you been on a mission trip? Please share your experience in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. I've been on several mission trips with the youth groups in our church, but never out of the country. The goal wasn't so much to spread the faith as it was to put faith into action. Both my kids helped rebuild houses in a remote Mexican village that had been destroyed by a mudslide.


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