The article below was written for people coming back from a short-term mission trip, but much of it applies for people on the field long-term too. Several of the points were a good reminder for me as I work here in Cambodia. It was written by Jeff Brewer and posted at http://www.sharefaithblog.com.
So you went on a short term mission trip this summer and you are getting ready to come home (or you just returned home). Here are ten things to remember about the gospel, missions and humility as you process through your trip.
- Your identity is in Christ, not in what you do or have done for Christ. (1 John 3:1)
- The greatest need for all people, in all nations, is the gospel; not to become more or less like another culture. There are beautiful expressions of culture in other contexts. There are beautiful expressions of culture in America. There are sinful expressions of culture in both. Be careful not to pit one against another and neglect the gospel which is our greatest need regardless of the culture in which we live.
- Be patient with those who know nothing about the country from which you just returned. Patiently endure questions about food and dress and other stereotypical questions. Think through carefully how you will answer typical questions graciously and in a way that points people back to the gospel and the reason for why you went in the first place.
- Even though you have experienced a lot, your knowledge about your host country is not exhaustive. Remember you have only begun to understand their culture. Keep being a learner about the culture that you just began to experience; not an expert.
- This world is not your home––in either place. Fight against the temptation to make your identity in any one culture. We are all away from the Lord, from our true home (2 Cor 5:8,9) and our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20).
- Fight romanticism. Your trip (especially if longer than a month) was not all a bed of roses. Take time to journal and remember the hardships of living in a foreign culture. The temptation will be to be to romanticize missions and minimize the difficulties you encountered. Romanticism does not help promote and mobilize people to missions because the hardships are real. Be realistic with others who would consider such a project in the future.
- Fight pride. You did not gain standing with God because you lived in a foreign context for a year or a lifetime. We can only stand before God because of the death and resurrection of Christ not because of what we do for Christ. (Romans 8:3; 1 Peter 3:18)
- Fight Laziness. As you re-acclimate to life in the States, fight against the temptation to be lazy by neglecting the Word of God and cultivating your relationship with Christ. Relax and be encouraged but be intentional in how you do so in order that you do not fall into sinful patterns of behavior and thought.
- Remember to pray for those to whom you ministered. In most cases, you will never see the men and women with whom you spent so much time. For the brothers and sisters in Christ that you met and worshiped with, pray for them as Paul prayed as he remembered them. (Philippians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:3)
- Proclaim the need for the glory of God in the gospel to to be brought to all peoples. Keep the least reached peoples of the world before people who may not know of the need. (Matt 9:38)