This next week I have the opportunity to spend a couple weeks in Uganda, Africa. People ask me if it is a missions trip, and the answer is … sort of. You see, my brother and his family work at an orphanage in Jinja, Uganda and a couple of us from the family are going over to visit. You can learn more about the orphanage here. So while in Uganda, we will have the opportunity to work on projects around the orphanage and bring supplies for the kids. Additionally, I have the opportunity to teach in a couple local churches. We will also be going on safari and, of course, spending time with family. It’s going to be a great trip!
So while this may not be a “missions” trip (though shouldn’t every trip be seen as an opportunity to be “missional”?), there are some things I have learned from from previous experiences in places like Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Rwanda.
- A chance to unplug from the Matrix. Trips such as these are an opportunity to step away from our tech-driven culture of iPods, laptops, smart phones, video games, cable TV, and other gadgets. Ok, so I’m taking my iPod. But when I am forced to unplug from my world, I find I am much more engaged in the real world around me. I have come to believe that our tech-saavy minds crave distraction. When we pull the plug on the constant noise, we begin to engage at a deeper level.
- Wrestling with my own lack of contentment. I am often struck by the level of joy and contentment I see amidst a lack of material possessions and sometimes, outright poverty. Certainly, when we encounter places of poverty, there are thing we can do to meet tangible needs. We should strive to clear economic hurdles and bring more opportunity to these places. But I contrast this with the glut of possessions and opportunities most of us live with, which is often accompanied by a lack of contentment and an absence of joy. I feel the restlessness in my own spirit and wonder how it can be so prevalent when I have been given so much.
- Good intentions gone bad. It isn’t fun to talk about in church, but I have also, at times, seen the best of intentions cause more harm than good in the name of missions. A 200-machine computer lab in a remote village school comes to mind, of which only one or two computers were actually operational. Once the group that funded and set up the project went home, there was no one around to service the simplest of technical problems. I remember speaking to a man waiting for his home to be built. All the supplies were gathered and the village was more than capable of constructing the house, but the project was put on hold several months so that a youth group had something to do on their missions trip. These stories and more remind me to test my motivations, making sure that real needs are being met as opposed to engaging in activities that make me feel good, but offer little tangible help for those who need it.
- An opportunity to serve … and be served. Of one thing I am confident, that I am served and ministered to by the people I meet on these trips far more than I serve or minister to them. I usually enter into these opportunities focused on ways I can help or the supplies I can bring; I usually leave feeling like I was given far more than I gave.
If you remember, please pray for us over the next couple of weeks. I’ll write about the trip when I get back!