I’ve just finished writing about chapter three of Bill Strickland‘s Make the Impossible Possible. One of the things I really took home from this chapter is his take on helping people. Strickland has started a new arts center for the struggling youth of the Manchester ghetto. He’s gotten funding, built a beautiful facility, stocked it with clay and tools and equipment….and he has very few people come to visit. Those that do wander by just watch awhile and then leave, or play for a moment before moving on. Strickland realized “I wasn’t going to save anyone who wasn’t ready to be saved, and if I was expecting gratitude for what I was trying to do, I was on a fool’s mission–the people I was trying to help hadn’t asked me to help them, and they didn’t owe me anything. All I could do was share what I had to share with whoever was willing to listen.”
This thought really hit home. How many times have I faced the same situation? How many times have I just let the fact that trying to ‘save’ people who aren’t ready to be saved is fruitless….stop me in my tracks?
Years ago, my hubby and I thought seriously about going on mission to Haiti. We had located a Christian television station that needed someone to take over operations, and were considering moving our then family of three to Haiti. After a few months of discussion we decided to table the idea until after we had a second baby, and during my pregnancy with Middle Child the political climate of Haiti made going there difficult, if not impossible.
I mention this because I think that my motivation for wanting to go do mission work at that time was all wrong. My idea of what it would be like was simplistic and naive. I wanted to go where there was extreme poverty, bring the good news, help people by getting my hands dirty and digging in the dirt. What’s wrong with that? Only that I wanted…and expected…to be a savior of sorts. I wanted adventure, I wanted tangible results, I wanted to see the seeds I planted grow and flourish before my very eyes. In short, I wanted what I wanted, and I wasn’t listening for what God wanted.
Instead, we stayed in the city. We grew and went through changes, we had Middle Child and then we had Youngest also. Slowly I realized that where we live is mission territory. In many ways, it’s as much mission territory as Haiti is. The difference is, the poverty isn’t visible, it isn’t (by and large) financial, and it isn’t always easy to spot. The poverty is spiritual, and it’s a different kind of mission work we’re called to right now. A mission of compassion and honesty and faith, a mission of life-style evangelism and quiet chipping away at the facade that exists everywhere we turn. It’s much less glorious, it’s much more subtle, and the chances that I’ll be present to see the fruits of my labor are slim. But it’s where God has me.
Will we ever get to go on the sort of mission that I long for? Maybe. But in the meantime I need to focus on the one we’ve been given and not be frustrated by the fact that all I can do is share what I have to share with whoever is willing to listen. Like Strickland did when his new art center was unknown and empty, I can put on my shoes and zip up my hoodie and go out seeking people who are looking for more, people who are longing to hear what God has to offer. I am finding that when you let your light shine out rather than hide it under a bushel, people sometimes even come to you. And I’m learning that letting God use you right where you are is first step to any kind of mission.