Mission is at the heart of the gospel. Have you ever thought about that? When you become a Christian, you also become a missionary, because the God whom we follow is nothing less than a missionary God – always on the move, always leading people of every tribe, tongue, and nation into a deeper awareness of his reality and his claim on their lives.
I saw this in action during our recent mission trip to Nicaragua. Six of us from Sylva traveled with friends from Arbor Dale and Newland Presbyterian Churches to spend the week with leaders of Young Life (AKA Viden Joven in Spanish). Vida Joven is a ministry to youth based in the United States but stretching all over the globe, and it was exciting to see it flourishing in Nicaragua.
There are too many stories to recount from the trip, but one highlight was the night we attended a “club” meeting in Estelí. Club is Vida Joven’s weekly youth gathering, usually held in someone’s home, and this week we met at Daniel’s house along with 30 or so kids from the surrounding neighborhood. The night was warm and the sky was clear and the energy in the room was palpable. The kids danced, sang songs, and acted in a few skits before a young woman named Deanna came out to share a message from Luke 15, the story of the Prodigal Son. All of us, she said, have experienced getting lost. But God desires to find us and to bring us home.
As Deanna spoke, I was so amazed at her courage and confidence. Here was someone who was still a teenager, growing up in the second-poorest country in the western hemisphere, with a fraction of the material resources that we normally rely on in the U.S., who was also participating so obediently in the mission of God. I was humbled and amazed and as the night wrapped up, I felt a deep conviction that we in America have much to learn from our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters about what faithfulness really looks like.
There were other highlights too, of course. Before the club meeting, we spent all morning walking and praying through the neighborhood, which was a powerful experience of befriending and loving our neighbors in Estelí. The next day, we traveled up into the mountains to the La Finca camp to see where so many Vida Joven kids get to spend time with God and with each other. There we got to pick coffee beans, blaze trails for a new low-ropes course, walk a labyrinth in the dark, and eat loads of fresh fruit and gallo pinto (rice and beans) while sipping the best coffee in the world. Throughout these experiences we heard testimonies from the Vida Joven leadership, shared and received prayers, and dreamed about how the difficult but important work of discipleship can be shared back home in North Carolina.
So often we think of mission work in terms of task-oriented service projects: the Peace Corps with a Christian twist. But mission work is so much wider and deeper than that. It’s a life of participating in the mission of God. And this life is always personal and particular and humble and open. In Nicaragua we met people with personal names like Deanna or Daniel; we visited particular places like Estelí and La Finca; we humbled ourselves to ask for help with Spanish and directions and toilet paper; and we opened ourselves to new experiences, to leaving our comfort zones, and to seeing God at work perhaps where we least expected him.
To all of you who prayed or gave money to help us get to Nicaragua – thank you. I hope you’ll consider traveling with us in the future (because we do plan to go back!). And to all of us who have committed to the dusty road of discipleship, may we walk with a renewed commitment to the mission God has for us.
Yours in Christ,