This week: Mission Trips Edited by: Jeff
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"Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief."
-- C.S. Lewis
About The Editor: Greetings! My name is Jeff and I'm one of your regular editors for the official Spiritual Newsletter! I've been a member of Writing.com since 2003, and have edited more than 350 newsletters across the site during that time. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me via email or the handy feedback field at the bottom of this newsletter!
When I was growing up, I was (mostly) agnostic and growing up in an area with a large Mormon community. My initial exposure to the idea of missionary work was with those Mormons who elect to pursue a proselytizing mission, many of whom go door-to-door seeking to educate others about their faith and convert them. I've since come to learn that the Mormon Church has, like many other faiths, other types of missionary work including humanitarian aid, community service, etc., but my first experience with the idea of someone on a "mission trip" was a church sending you to a particular city, state, or country with the goal of converting others to your faith.
In 2014, I went on my first mission trip. The previous year, my wife had traveled with her sister's church to Sao Paulo, Brazil where they served with a partner that provided a number of services and benefits to low-income areas, including some of the worst favelas (slums) in the city, and in 2014 they needed someone to help them with audiovisual and web content to promote their ministry. At first, I was really resistant to the idea. I didn't want to go film a bunch of people knocking on doors and trying to convert people to Christianity.
When I got there, I was genuinely shocked to find there wasn't anything like that going on. The ministry partner in Sao Paulo goes into the favelas and puts on "block parties" for the neighborhood kids who, most of the time, are exposed to crime, drugs, violence, and poverty on a daily basis. This organization comes in and sets up on a run-down basketball court, barren park, abandoned building, or whatever they can find and bring everything they need so the kids can spend a couple hours playing games, eating a healthy meal, and listening/singing along with music. They ask if they can pray for the kids and their families, and some of the activities (puppet shows, songs, etc.) have a religious message, but they aren't pushy about it. The goal is just to spend time with the kids, making them feel special and giving them something to look forward to when they come visit every couple of weeks.
At their headquarters, the ministry also offers basic professional classes (everything from English language lessons to tutorials on how to put together a resume, interview for a job, etc.) to help more affluent members of the community, and those funds in turn go to supporting their efforts with the kids in the favelas. While I spent most of my time recording and editing material for them, most missionaries simply helped out with these activities; anything from helping the English classes as a native speaker, to playing with the kids during the block parties in the favelas. Sometimes there would be special projects like helping neighboring businesses remove graffiti from their storefronts or bringing a meal to someone who was sick.
I was completely taken aback that a "mission trip" could be something as simple as helping members of the community; that it wasn't necessarily going around quizzing people about their faith and trying to "educate" them into converting to your religion. Just as importantly, it was also one of my very first experiences really getting to know people different from myself. Spending time with people in other cultures has since become a core value of mine. It's too easy to isolate from others and secure ourselves in our own little protective bubbles when so much of the human experience is a shared one. We're all living on the same planet and many of us, for the most part, want the same things: security, love, acceptance, etc.
In the time since that original mission trip, I've been on a number of other mission trips (both local and international), as well as supported a number of other friends and acquaintances who have taken trips of their own. Collectively, we've built schools and dug wells in Uganda, planted churches in India, sponsored children in the favelas of Brazil and other impoverished regions around the world. Houses have been built in Mexico, cleanup efforts have been undertaken in Haiti, children have been adopted out of the foster system, and - closer to home - an organization is being formed that is trying to, among other things, help skilled locals turn their talents and hobbies into viable business opportunities to support their families. One of my favorite mission trips recently was the one our church sent to work with an organization in El Salvador who is doing some amazing things in their community. A lot of mission trips have a "we'll bring help to those less fortunate" vibe to them and this was one of the few where a more affluent church sent a team to learn from the local organization and bring those lessons back to make efforts in our own community better.
All of this is to say that I had no idea what a "mission trip" really was. I didn't understand that "ministry" isn't necessarily just proselytizing and trying to convert others to your faith. It can be that, sure, but depending on the types of mission work you seek out, there's a real opportunity to help people, to build stronger communities, and to get to know amazing people you might not otherwise have ever had a reason to meet. Those are the kind of missions that speak to me, and have really had an impact on how I see the world and what I've been able to do to make it a better place.
If you ever have the opportunity to support or, better yet, actually go on a mission trip yourself, I'd highly encourage you to consider doing so. You'll of course have to vet the opportunity and make sure that the specific thing you're going to do is something you're excited about, but there are mission trips for all kinds of good work, and the world really is a better place when we get out of our comfort zone and meet other people where they are. You never know where life might lead you from there.
Until next time,
If you're interested in checking out my work:
"New & Noteworthy Things" | "The Book of Jeff"
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| ||Made Pure [ASR] |
A young child is sent to stop a curse keeping a kingdom from a holy celebration.
EXCERPT: A light gale moved the small tree branch as a snow covered cardinal perched. Daress sat on a bench as he continued to gaze at the creature. His tall father sat beside him. “Do you remember the observance we have once every seven years, son?”
EXCERPT: What is faith besides “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen?” These two phrases may seem self-evident, but they aren’t. If something is “hoped for” and “not seen,” it is not yet established, fulfilled, or complete. This is where faith comes in. It suggests that the “not seen” and “hoped for” are real enough and obtainable. The believer has a choice to make at this point. Believers can decide that they will live according to the idea that what they have accepted as the truth will take place or occur. On the other hand, these same believers can also choose to believe in believing in what the Bible claims are valid. This second option is where I think too many Christian tend to live in their “walk with God.”
EXCERPT: The tabby cat had only been living in the stable of the Bethlehem inn for a few months. She’d been given in payment by a travelling merchant for a room for the night. She had been heavy with kittens when she arrived. While taking a break from her sleeping little ones, Gabriella, as the innkeeper’s wife had named her, heard the innkeeper talking to some new arrivals. Since the inn was small, it had filled up rapidly as people flooded into the town in order to be register to be taxed.
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Feedback from "Spiritual Newsletter (December 28, 2022)" about the Twitter "war" on Christmas:
AmyJo - February is Comin' writes:
It is sad that people feel they need to attack others' beliefs (or lack of). We aren't called to attack people, but to show them Christ's love, and be a beacon of light. As the song goes, They will know we are Christians by our love...not by our aggression, however "well intended". Just my two cents, anyway.
BIG BAD WOLF is Merry writes:
My opinion - God is a Scientist, and Earth is his Petri dish. There - Evolution and Creation. Lol!
I'm an agnostic, but I prefer for the holiday to keep its name - "Christmas". It's what I grew up with, and I have many fond memories of the holiday, with presents under the tree, carols on the stereo, and eggnog in our cups. "Winter Holiday" doesn't get it for me. The title "Christmas" is only loosely associated with religion for me, and I would like my memories to not be interfered with.
I couldn't agree more, Jeff. I got rid of all my social media accounts two years ago and cable TV about a year ago. Two of the best decisions I've ever made. Great NL, my friend.
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