The Truth Burden – Post-Mission Responsibility
So you love missions. You believe in missions. You go on mission trips: short-term, long-term and everything in between. You advocate for partnerships you’ve worked with. You love the people you’ve developed relationships with. You talk about them, about their ministry and their needs. You pray for them, you get your church to pray for them.
But what do you say about the country you visited when you return home? What kind of picture do you paint of the place you spent your timing serving or living?
This is what I like to call the Truth Burden.
At the end of every week in Haiti, I always make it a point speak on this topic. While doing ministry in Haiti – a controversial place that remains in the spotlight of international media, it is incredibly important to have this tough conversation. But it’s not just about Haiti, it’s about the world. It’s about missions everywhere, even right here in the USA.
I leave Eric to go serve in Haiti at HCO for 4 months. Everyone tells me I’m crazy, I field endless questions and concerns from hundreds of people who’ve never even been there about how horrible Haiti is (because the news said so) and how prominent malaria is and how I’m definitely going to get Cholera and what will I even eat?
I suck it up, ignore their threats and go, I follow the voice of Christ in my life, even-though it wasn’t the popular thing to do. And I have an incredible experience.
An experience that shapes my heart, soul, paradigms, future, marriage, career path, friendships and relationship with Christ. I meet amazing people, God reveals Himself to me in new ways every day. I learn more than I ever thought possible, including a new language, how to be confident in who I am as a woman, how to handle emotionally delicate situations, how important it is to draw boundaries with orphans, what true trust in Christ looks like and how to stand up for people when they don’t realize they’re being wronged. Countless lessons I had the privilege to learn.
But what will those back home learn from my time gone? Only what I tell them. What will my parents think of Haiti? Only what they hear from me. They trust me, they know me, they’ll take my word for it.
The point being, for you and your mission team, it’s incredibly imperative that you are prepared for the transition back home. Coming home is where the work begins.
It’s important to be prepared for those big words from your supporters: “How was your trip?” Being ready to share the truth of your time in country. It’s tempting to share the easy-to-shock, negative remarks about infrastructure or living conditions, or the shock-and-awe “you’ll never believe what happened!” stories of the fight on the side of the road or aggressive souvenir sellers at the beach.
Instead, dig down into the lessons learned. Find the truth of those around you and who they are as humans and Christians and tell those stories. It’s your responsibility, the burden on your shoulders.
Christ has given us a responsibility. A torch that we must carry – to spread the truth. For me, the torch I carry is to share my truth about Haiti. What God shows me about the country each day. The layers of life He peels away for me to see. This does include pain and heartache, but it also includes hope and joy.
You probably have crazy stories you could share from experiencing different aspects from another culture. But in life, as we share these kind of stories, there’s big potential for the proverbial fish to grow just a few inches bigger each time. “It really was THIS big, I promise!” And to what purpose? To what end? Only to perpetuate fear and misunderstanding. To create rumors, to enhance the media headlines.
So you get rumors. You get scared mothers or brothers, a neighbor who has a friend who works with a guy whose kids babysitter went to Haiti once before, and let me tell you,they were terrified of being kidnapped.
And what is left out is the reality of your time there. What is left out is what’s below the surface. Haiti needs you to know what’s below the surface. You need to speak to what’s below the surface.
The reality that the trip was incredible, the country was beautiful and the culture so different from your own.
That you grew in new ways and witnessed the country-wide revival and awakening.
That you met people who taught you what true worship is.
That you saw poverty, maybe like you’ve never seen, but you saw a people full of zeal, love, life and laughter that makes you re-think your priorities.
That you felt like you could touch the hand of God.
That you worked harder than you ever thought you could and were exhausted every night, but it was worth it.
That the mosquitoes really weren’t that bad. 🙂
That you saw hope and peace and resilience like never before.
That you understand now the reality that God is over the nations, not just the USA.
The reality of how the Lord worked through you at the school ministry.
The reality of how active the local church is in the community.
How the Pastor’s wife worked harder than any of the men at the construction site.
That a local brought you fruit as a thank you for helping out, even though he might not have had any extra to spare.
That the communication of the Holy Spirit isn’t bound by language, age or ethnicity.
That the orphanage children washed your legs, so you could be clean after a hard day hauling concrete.
How the local staff were genuine followers of Christ and led in devotion.
The reality that even the orphanage you partnered with also has an outreach feeding program for the community.
The reality that your heart was grasped so tightly by your experiences, at times you thought it would burst.
But that you will proclaim it forever, as a torch you will carry. You are now an ambassador for this country. The responsibility will not be lost on you. That you will return someday, when you can. That others should go. That others should pray. That others should expect great things from your host country. That you will not shy away from the flame burning brightly within you for the truth.
That is the Truth Burden – and what a glorious burden it is.
The question is, what will you do with it? Will you be someone who returns home and tells stories that shock and awe in a negative way, or a positive way?
I hope it’s the latter.