Our Malaysia team landed back in the United States a couple of days ago. The participants are recovering from jet lag and working to process their experiences. One of our team members, Evan Anderson, shared this recap and some of his initial thoughts about the trip.
Every time we begin training for a trip wherein we partner with a team or individual serving in an international context, we make a conscious effort to leave the word m-ssion* out of our vocabulary. In most places outside of the U.S., that word carries a lot of baggage and negative connotations. By leaving that word behind, we not only protect the security of our overseas partners, but we also keep our own mentality in check.
We strive to remember that, really, on a trip like this, we shouldn’t look or behave that differently than we do every other day of our lives. We go on a trip like this to increase cultural awareness, to see and more fully understand the big picture of Jesus’ Great Commission, and to encourage our brothers and sisters serving around the world.
Still, it can sometimes be hard to leave behind what we’ve come to expect from a trip like this. We expect to have a project. We need a “m-ssion,” or we sometimes find ourselves feeling useless. Idle.
In our training leading up to the trip, we discussed cultural sensitivities and some best practices for serving in international contexts. We discussed safety, worries, and excitements we all shared; what sort of things to pack and not pack. We prepared in every way you can imagine. But the one thing rolling around in all of our heads was this: what will we actually be doing when we get there? We didn’t have a clear idea and even our partner serving in Malaysia said that was ok. He told us, “Come prepared to be tourists.”
But how could this be a m-ssion trip if we had no clear m-ssion? Even though I didn’t want to admit it, this mindset was still providing the framework for my expectations.
When we arrived, our partner instructed us, “Go out and meet people. Talk to them. Engage them in conversation. Ask them about their faith and their beliefs, and then tell them about yours.”
Our second day in Malaysia, we spent the first half of the day in training—specifically, how to engage those of a Muslim background in faith conversations.
It became clear that this trip was meant to be an outpouring of what we should already be doing daily in our own contexts back home. “Brag on Jesus,” our partner told us.
We spent the next 6 days spread out across the city in which we were serving. We canvassed the city with the Good News. We engaged 95 people in spiritual conversations – locals, as well as those from Pakistan, Algeria, Yemen, UK, Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Canada, India, and Afghanistan. At the end of the trip, our partner had this to say about our time serving with him: “It’s hard to express how thankful I am for the effort the New Orleans team gave this past week. Thanks so much to those…that made it possible for 10 people to come and help us spread the [Good News] to the unreached…thanks for praying for us. My heart is full and refreshed by this group and I look forward to seeing the fruit that results from it. To God be the glory!”
Brag on Jesus. That was our purpose on this trip. And it’s our purpose even now as we are home recovering from jet lag, catching up on missed work and school, and settling back into the routine. More than accomplishing something great somewhere else, a truly successful m-ssion trip can be measured by what it accomplishes in our hearts. Do we live on m-ssion just as fervently before we step onto the plane as when we land?
I pray that seeds were planted in Malaysia and that our partner is able to see the work grow among her people. And as far as our group goes, I pray that we are reminded to seek out those around us here that need to hear the same message we talked about there.
*words altered for the security of our international partners