Mission trips. It's a popular buzzphrase in most Christian communities...almost as if going on a mission trip is a milestone that Christians feel obligated to reach in life. Lots of Christians unfortunately receive a shocked response from another Christian nowadays if they haven't gone on a mission trip, especially if they haven't been on one outside the United States. We as Christians and followers of Christ are responsible to obey Christ's commandment of sharing the Gospel and spreading Jesus's love to others around the world. We're quick to jump up and book that plane ticket to Africa, but we tend to have too much of a focus on the "to then end of the earth" of the Scripture passage, forgetting the other regions that God instructed us to be witnesses to: our hometowns (Jerusalem) and our own countries (Judea and Samaria). Most folks who go on mission trips rarely finish the work they began on the trip either. Projects are started, progress is made and people are met, but then the trip is over and we come back to our land of freedom and first world pleasures. Follow ups are not made, trips back are not booked, and communications with our brothers and sisters in another nation are not maintained.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all of Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." ~ Acts 1:8 (ESV)
I used to really get frustrated by the number that would give me the reaction, "You've never been on a mission trip? Not even in high school or college?!" My laundry list of medical challenges makes it extremely difficult for me to go overseas, or sometimes even domestically in the States, for mission trips. I was accepted to go on a trip to rural Alaska during my time in college, but then the leaders of the trip told me I could no longer go as they couldn't accommodate my medical necessities nor handle me in an emergency. That stung quite hard and I was angry that they even accepted me in the first place then jerked the trip out from under me, but the reality is that on the majority of mission trips there is no guarantee I can stay separated from people who are sick, no guarantee to electricity for my medical equipment, no guarantee of adequate physical rest and there is no guarantee that there are other folks on the trip who would understand my situation and be willing to go at a slower pace with me. I would likely be more of a hinderance than a help on most mission trips that are to remote locations with no access to healthcare or locations that cannot accommodate my medical needs.
However, this does not mean I cannot fulfill the Great Commission. My uncle once told me something I've never forgotten, "I think the hospital is your mission field." Initially, I didn't quite understand this, but overtime, I began to see what he meant. Each hospitalization, God put someone within the hospital in my life with whom I got the opportunity to tell the Gospel, share that my hope in Jesus as the reason for my ability to still smile, and explain the Scripture verses on my hospital room walls. I've learned through observation and personal experience that people who have gone through certain experiences in life can touch lives of others who are dealing with similar circumstances whereas others cannot understand enough or break through any walls to reach these folks. I now have a goal to look upon my hospital stays and medical struggles as opportunities for God to reach another soul, using me as a vessel to carry His hope to other patients who are struggling, healthcare workers who are weary, the kind people who sacrificially clean rooms daily, or the therapists that help with the medical care that patients usually hate, such as physical therapy after major surgery or airway clearance therapy.
Mission trips are not always in the depths of Africa, the faraway towns of Asia, or the small countrysides of Europe. Sometimes they're at the local gym, the restaurant you frequent, the stoplight on the way home from work every day, or during hospital stays. Where is your mission field and who can you bring the love and hope of Jesus to today where you are now?