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Mission Life

Posted by Sarah Bourns , 19 August 2013 · 1578 views

With all of our Simpson WorldSERVE teams now home and preparing to begin the new semester, we’re in a season of post-trip reflection and evaluation. The most common debrief dilemma we get from students is, “how do I live here in light of what I learned there?” I couldn’t be more thrilled with this challenging question, knowing it means they don’t just see their summer trip as a stand-alone event to check off of their college to-do list. We, of course, pray and hope and tell them that these cross-cultural experiences are only meant to be the beginning, or a continuation, of a life lived on mission. But I’m finding… sigh… it’s a lot easier said than done.

There’s just something about the mission TRIP mentality that is hard to translate into a true missional way of life. And I don’t mean that only the students are facing this dilemma. More than ever, I too am being convicted and humbled by the disparity between who I am on the “mission field,” and who I am at home. Why is it so much harder to be a light in the darkness in my own city than it is in Indonesia or India? Why are the practices that come so easily for me on a short-term trip, like fervent prayer and daily Bible study, not an absolutely essential habit in my long-term real life? Why do I seem to have more boldness, passion and burden for the lost when I cross a national border than when I cross my own street?

We’ve all heard, and I’ve certainly told my students, that nothing magical happens when you hop on a plane. You’re not instantly transformed into a fearless, inspired, powerful communicator of the Gospel. Yet, we’ve seen the Holy Spirit ministering in us, and through us, on foreign soil in ways we rarely experience at home. So, if He is the same everywhere, and if He lives in me whether I’m in Africa, Asia or America, what am I missing here that I seem to have there?

So I started a list of some possible answers to that question…

1. A sense of urgency—A short-term trip is just that: it’s short. We know we’re not going to be there forever, so we don’t want to waste a single day. We give all we’ve got and we take every opportunity presented to us.

2. The necessity of spiritual disciplines— Since we are constantly pouring ourselves out, we must continually be receiving and hearing from the Lord. We know that our daily ministry, relationships and well-being are directly dependent on our time spent in prayer, worship and Scripture study. It’s non-negotiable.

3. Decreased distractions—We intentionally leave behind all the technology, media, and consumerism of our culture in order to pursue the people in front of us. We aren’t bombarded with a hundred things on our to-do list or running circles in every direction. We unplug, breathe, and focus on the present (mainly because we have no idea what tomorrow will hold anyway!)

4. Constant community—For 24 hours a day we’re surrounded by fellow journeyers… like it or not! There is built-in (if not forced) accountability, vulnerability, forgiveness and iron-sharpening-iron-ness. We must actually BE the church for one another, often because there is no other church.

5. An expectation to see God move—We awaken every morning with a heightened sense of excitement, asking “what’s God going to do today!?” We submit ourselves to His plan, actively look for where He is moving, and jump to join Him when possible.

6. Purposeful relationships— Our conversations, even with new acquaintances, quickly dive into heart and soul matters. Though brief, we want our interactions to be meaningful. We bravely take opportunities to share truth and hope with our new friends and pray earnestly that they would follow Jesus.

7. The desperation of the lost and the least— Poverty, spiritual bondage, and injustice surround us and hang heavy on our hearts. We are exceedingly aware of all that is not right in the world. God’s passion for the lost and broken becomes ours and we cry out to Him for rescue and redemption. And He vividly reminds us that WE are His light in the darkness.

8. Daily service and sacrifice— We don’t expect it to be easy. In fact, we embrace the difficulties and gladly take up the challenge to tirelessly love and serve. We give ourselves away every day, despite exhaustion and weakness, then we get up and do it again. We count the cost and find that the sacrifice is more than worth it!


So, those are some of the things I feel like I left behind when I boarded my flight home. But, did I need to? Are they only valid on foreign soil??? Re-read with me the above list and let’s ponder whether any of these can translate into our lives here and now… hmmm…….


Yes… I suppose we can live with a sense of urgency today, making the most of every opportunity... And, frequent time in the Father’s presence could be non-negotiable… We could limit the distractions around us and plug into our community of fellow Christ-followers… We could approach our very normal Tuesdays with the anticipation that God might want to do something great! We could pursue deeper friendships, praying for a chance to bring hope… And we could put ourselves right in the middle of desperate people in order to selflessly serve them because the joy surpasses the sacrifice!

…Yes, I suppose we could do that…

Who’s with me!? :)

  • Kent Copley, Ma Vang and NandCard like this



This is a great list, Sarah. Very, very good fuel for thought and action.

It would add to it this angle: it is not only important that we bring these values back home into local ministry, but that we find ways to remain intentionally part of what is going on the overseas location where we served. As a long-term international worker, I can attest to the fact that it is challenging to live these values daily in our overseas settings, just as it is for students and others whose long-term setting is their home culture. If those who've been moved and used by God on a short-term trip can lean into the relationships of support and prayer and encouragement that keep international workers moving in these same values, that would be a wonderful addition to the good things on the home front that you list above!

Thanks for leading students into the world!
    • Sarah Baker and Sarah Bourns like this
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Sarah Bourns
Aug 28 2013 05:56 PM
Thank you NandCard! Yes and Amen! We do talk with our students about how to pray and support and keep in touch with the field after they return home but unfortunately that didn't make it on this list! Thanks for the reminder and many blessings to you as you live out these values every day in your cross-cultural ministry.
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