I think I’ve figured out the frustration I feel as I watch them walk up and down these streets most days. Them in their white button up shirts and straight ties, pressed black pants and backpacks slung nonchalantly over their shoulders.
I’ve figured out my frustration over their boldness in approaching strangers who carry brown paper bags hiding the liquor inside; approaching the woman strung out on drugs or the kids who are spending long, lazy summer days riding bikes to that corner store and back.
They approach anyone and everyone – it doesn’t matter how they look or who they are or the response that they get…their question is always the same: “Can I talk to you about Jesus Christ?”.
And I sit there on my porch and I rock in that chair and they are passing out pictures of a false Jesus while I hold the true Christ right there in my soul and shouldn’t our places be switched?
For years I nodded my head and applauded the people who went. Promised to pray and then never did – watched them come back and wrestle through the transition – ease back into safe and comfort together and lived safe and comfortable until the next summer when buses would load up for Mexico or to some random inner city and the cycle would repeat, over and over.
I don’t see it the same way anymore.
I don’t think I can.
I’m sad that it took Tony taking the job that he has for me to realize this – that it took until we moved right down into the middle of the inner city for me to realize this:
I’m not going to encourage my children to go on short-term missions trips.
It isn’t something that I’m going to even encourage until they learn that missions isn’t a short term thing. That missions is a life-style that all Christians are called to. That it isn’t a summer-time event, but an everyday thing. That when Jesus said, Go out into all the world, His disciples listened…but they started where they were first.
They learned how to love others and speak of Jesus and how to do missions communally before they went out on their own. That they worked together in the cities where they were, reaching out to the people around them before they moved on.
I’m not going to encourage my children to go into another city’s inner-city until they have learned to love the people in their own inner-city first.
I’m not going to encourage my children to go and serve the lost and under-privileged in another inner-city until they see the people in their own inner-city have worth. Until they see the way serving those around them here can make a difference.
I’m not going to encourage my kids to do short-term missions until it is more than just the thing to do, or until it’s more than a once-a-year event. Until it is more about God’s glory than it is about their own fame.
I look at the streets around me and I look at literally thousands of people who don’t know the truth about Jesus. Single moms and fatherless children – people desperate to know the truth about Christ.
Is it any wonder there is crime? Is it any wonder that when there is lack – a void – in a life that humanity grasps for something to fill that wound? Drugs/alcohol – numbs. Gangs – become family. Promiscuity – intimacy that doesn’t last.
I live in a city that is considered one of the most dangerous in the US and I look out my window and I smile and wave at my neighbours and all I can think is this: What would happen if instead of sponsoring short-term missions out of the city, each church spent that time and energy down in its own inner city?
What would happen?
If instead of going out, we stayed in and flooded these broken streets with the love of God. If we are brave enough to go to another city’s inner places, shouldn’t we be brave enough to go to our own?
We are told to go into all the world and I see all the different countries around me that are represented and I can picture how just one person coming to know Jesus can spread the gospel into all the world from this one street in Yakima.
The fields are white for harvest – right here. Right here.
Bullets can fly.
Violence can break out.
Someone can cuss you out and tell you to back off.
We could be laughed at and mocked…
But I am a child of One Who was beaten.
One Who was rejected and scorned.
One Who was mocked and murdered.
One Who conquered death to give life to anyone who believes…
I come after a long line of people who risked safe for His glory.
Of a man named Paul who was stoned and left for dead, but who got back up the next day and told of Jesus to the very same people.
The fields are white – they are full. There are people right where you are who need to hear about Jesus.
Consider it – consider not going out until you have learned to love and serve and live among your own.