When I was in seventh grade, I sat next to a girl named Thea. The entire year I had a crush on her. She pretty much ignored me even though I thought she was gorgeous. Finally, in the spring we were sharing our summer vacation plans. I pointed to Honduras on a map and told her I was going there for two months on a mission trip with others my age. She looked at me with her beautiful blue eyes and said, “That is so cool.”
As my heart melted, I knew right then and there I wanted to do cool things!
Missionary work is about doing cool things. It’s about taking an adventure with God and taking a risk like Peter did when he got out of the boat and began to walk on water. Notice what happens when Peter begins to doubt and begins to sink. Jesus is right there to pick him up and make sure he didn’t drown.
When we take the risk to follow Christ, we need to know that He will always meet us at the time of our greatest need. Or, he will reveal himself in unique and profound ways.
I was recently in the Philippines and I looked up a friend of mine, Fr. George, who until recently was the priest at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church in Taguig, a poverty-stricken community in Metro Manila. He is a person I will never forget.
During my first visit in 2001, he was just starting out in his ministry at Holy Spirit. Taguig is a rough area where drugs, gangs and prostitution replaced several large industries that had closed. He told us he had lost his niece to the local gangs and was almost killed in the process of finding her. He also told us he had just started a daycare and had allowed children from other faiths and denominations to join. He was being criticized for this decision. However, he was committed to vision of combining both economic and spiritual development to build a stronger community
I asked him, “What’s your response to the gangs, to those who doubt you and criticize you?”
Fr. George simply responded. “When Christ died on the cross He died with his arms wide open.” And with that, he raised his arms wide open and gave a big smile. This gesture sent chills through me. I knew I had met Jesus in a new profound way at that very moment.
Since that time, his church has grown and he has become a pastor to the community. He counsels families with alcoholism, marriage problems and other issues. Meanwhile the loan program Five Talents established with his church has prospered benefiting thousands of community members.
Mission work is worth taking the risk because Jesus will show His face in so many exciting ways. And, by the way, He wants us to do cool things as well.