Comfort For The Soul

I have talked in past blog posts about serving the poor by providing food, clothing and shelter but this is a story about the need for spiritual comfort.

Below is a message I received about the Ebola outbreak from a friend that we met during our 2007 Liberia mission trip…

“Yesterday we experienced a terrible and serious situation in Johnsonville. Saturday morning about 10 am, we saw a convoy of about a dozen vehicles driving in from the city. The convoy of Armed Forces of Liberia, The ministry of Health, Internal Affairs, Justice, Police and Red Cross ambulance. We were caught by surprise. We were asked to go indoors. They told us to stay indoors because the convoy contained dead bodies of Ebola victims. We went indoors but later came out. Little did we realize that the district commissioner and the land Inspector had given permit to the Ebola team to bury dozens of dead bodies which were being carried in a KIA Motor truck. A chain caterpillar began to fix the damaged road. Following that, a long convoy apart from the first started approaching. They came to bury all the dead bodies collected from various hospitals in Monrovia. Villagers protested and refused to let the government officials in. A heated argument ensued and this resulted in the firing of guns for several minutes. They beat residents wounding several and then buried the bodies. As I write, there are a few among residents that collect water from unprotected wells.

There is complete fear upon us as there are lot of gun men around. Today, the faces I saw in church made me cry. Our people are in complete desperation and suffering. They cannot do their normal activities for fear of catching the Ebola sickness. We are thinking about providing relief and continue to feed hungry children who are cracking kernels for food. Tell the world that we need help. Our country is falling apart.”

Not being able to help someone in a tangible way is a bit disheartening and requires us to be dependent on God for his mercy.

I know we can’t all serve in missions, but we should all try to understand; and therefore, have compassion for those in need around the world. The reality is that the poor will always need our help. We need to respond when we can whether that is moving our hands and feet locally, sponsoring a child, sending someone who can go overseas, sending any form of encouragement, or praying. To help us understand the suffering of the poor who have no voice, this would be a good time to ask ourselves “what would we do if the government wanted to bury bodies with deadly diseases in our neighborhood?”

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Who Gains the Most from a Mission Trip?

Why would anyone want to use their vacation time to go overseas to live among the poor and risk their health and safety? That is a question I actually get more often from those that I go serve rather than friends and family at home. The question always surprises me. I’m usually thinking “why not?” I feel as though my reward is sometimes greater than those I am serving but those I am serving are so humble that they do not readily understand what they have to offer.

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Serving on a mission, whether locally or overseas, is the best way to learn and understand compassion and put your unconditional love and selfish desires to the test.

I am about to go on my eighth overseas mission trip and I’m looking forward to getting away from the endless busyness and responsibilities of American life and focusing on serving as Jesus’ hands and feet. We will be going to the Dominican Republic to teach children, do construction, lay cement floors, help with gardens, and the best part of all, visit homes and look into the grateful eyes of those who do not have the means to do all of this for themselves.

I also look forward to once again learning how to increase my faith from those who rely on God at a deeper level than I’ve ever had to. It is indescribable to be a part of such spirit-filled worship in the midst of environments that make you think there is nothing to celebrate. On the contrary, their faith is in abundance and they have so much to teach me! For instance:

In Cebu Philippines, I learned that kids are the same no matter where they are and orphanages, such as the Children’s Shelter of Cebu, can be beautiful when run by people who truly love and want to rescue children of all abilities. I also learned a deep respect for squatters who live in cardboard houses and yet dare to dream and work hard to get an education so they can change their futures.

In Eastern Germany, I learned the importance of building relationships to strengthen and encourage fellow Christians, especially those who are struggling to serve in an atheistic society.

In Haiti, I witnessed the spiritual joy and strength of the elderly even when all they have is their one room shacks. I also learned about the ministry of touch. Rubbing lotion on sick and dying patients was one of the most realistic manifestations of Christ’s love that I have ever experienced because I wasn’t there to just solve a need, I was there to comfort and touch the untouchables.

In Mexico, the Church taught me how to apply and prioritize spiritual disciplines, which included audible prayer walks before sunrise.

In Liberia Africa, I witnessed a Christian culture that takes the Bible literally and one of the ways they apply it is by demonstrating respectful speech and hospitality. My favorite experience was when waking up in a mud house to the sound of a sweet voice singing right outside my window. By the way, did you know roosters crow at night!?

That is why I go on these trips. God has created and called me to experience so much more than my small world has to offer.

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