Thursday, September 30, 2010

why go to Ethiopia?

17 hours of flight time and we will land in Addis Ababa. Considering the financial investment and the amount of preparation to make sure our kid's schedules stay on track back home may leave a person wondering, "Why?" Wouldn't it be less and disruptive and more cost-effective to simply wire money into an Ethiopian account for a well-trained African minister to use?

On the one hand, missions must steward God's resources wisely. In many cases, supporting indigenous workers makes the best economic and cultural sense. We could probably pay the annual salary of an African pastor for the cost of sending one of us to his village for a week. Supporting others to do the work of ministry is often exponentially better. Still, there are several reasons why we choose to GO:

We go because Christ commanded us to. Matthew 28:18-20 records the Great Commission [often treated as a great omission by many in the church]. He called His followers to "go into all nations." A disciple does what he/she sees their master doing. Christ came to the "world" so we go to the world as well.

We go because it stretches our faith. Missions is one of the greatest ways to challenge our walk with God, move us outside our boundaries and force us to trust Him along the way. Hebrews 11:6 states, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." My life in Christ is incomplete apart from faith and missions going makes me rely on Him.

We go because the need is great. This trip is primarily focused on taking care of dental needs among the needy in Addis Ababa, the capitol city of Ethiopia. To be sure, I probably won't be filling any cavities or performing any extractions, but the main players on this trip made a decision to go because they assessed their present resources and the world's great need. There are more than 150 dentists in the city of Arlington and only 75 dentists in the country of Ethiopia! In comparison, that would be only one dentist serving the population of Arlington, Mansfield and Fort Worth. Serving is what happens when people discover that they have been entrusted with God's great resources, not to bless themselves, but to be a blessing to those who need it. Missions in what happens when those servants go in the name of Jesus and for the purpose of serving in the context of the Gospel so that God is made famous.

We go because it models the normative Christian life to our children. Missions is the standard--not an option-- for every Christian. I disciple my children to care about people, value the Gospel's power and make their life count by practicing what I preach. If my kids chose to throw away a lucrative career for 3rd world ministry, I would be thrilled.

We go because we don't want to go. Every time I have had opportunity to go on a mission trip--Russia, Estonia, Ukraine, China, Spain, Mexico, and Africa--I have hesitated. I can always think of so many reasons why not to go: time away from family, preparations that have to be made, working ahead and getting caught up at work, numerous vaccinations, packing, long flights, jet lag, etc. If I choose to give in to the constant tug in my soul that wants to lead me to the easy life instead of suffering for Christ (we really have no idea what "suffering" is all about), I will miss all that God wants for me and from me. Saying "yes" to missions is a spiritual resolution to say "no" to my flesh.

We go because it gives us stories to tell of our living God. From the beginning, this trip has been a remarkable grassroots effort by radical Christians who were just following God's leading. As a bystander to this effort (I'm usually leading), I have had the great opportunity to watch God move in people's lives. If this is what he does on this side of the ocean, I can't imagine what He wants to do when we arrive and completely surrender to Him! Missions fills our hearts with incredible stories of how God proved Himself faithful, powerful, beautiful and good. I look forward to sharing these stories with our church family.