This month, I had the privilege of leading my one-hundredth international short-term mission team. Over the years I have seen God do amazing things in and through the lives of those willing to go beyond. Traveling to so many places around the globe has also caused me to reflect deeply about the things I have seen and experienced. The following are my top ten reflections — the things that have come into sharper focus as a result of going beyond.
10. We must embrace inconvenience. | Every major discovery in the history of the world has been made by those who were willing to take risks and embrace inconveniences. Over the centuries, the map of the world was slowly redefined by those who lost sight of familiar shores in order to move toward uncharted lands. Their commitment to the bigger picture enabled them to press on in spite of inconveniences. We must remember that the kingdom of God always advances at our inconvenience.
9. We must move in the direction of people in need. | Even a cursory study of the life of Jesus will reveal that He moved toward people in need, something that the religious leaders of His day were reluctant to do. If we want to become more like Jesus, then we must intentionally close the distance between ourselves and those who, like the lepers of Jesus’ day, are longing for the kind of touch that will build a bridge from our heart to theirs.
8. The geography of our birthplace matters. | The geography of my birthplace made it possible for me to have access to the gospel and to resources that enable me to live with a relatively high measure of comfort and security. Not so for many in our world. For some, the geography of their birthplace means that life will be difficult and dangerous. I have a responsibility to be a good steward of the blessings I enjoy because of where I was born and must not neglect the welfare of those born in difficult places.
7. Worldview impacts everything. | Among all of the worldview issues that impact whether people live in fear or with hope is the matter of the sanctity of human life. I have seen what can happen to people who live in cultures that devalue human life. From the displacement camps of Darfur to the narrow alleys of Kolkata where Mother Teresa rescued the destitute and dying, worldview impacts whether people live or die. I have a responsibility to live out my worldview regarding the sanctity of human life both at home and abroad.
6. Injustice is a reality. | Knowing that there are approximately 27 million people in the world today who live under some form of slavery is mind-boggling. A statistic like this can easily anesthetize us to the painful realities experienced by the individual people who make up those statistics. It’s one thing to hear that there are 27 million people held as slaves, but it’s another thing to personally meet someone who has been rescued from such a hell. Charts and graphs can give us insight into the magnitude of a problem, but meeting a victim can compel us to become a part of the solution. I have a responsibility to fight against injustices like human trafficking.
5. There is no place where God is not at work. | While there are fields around the globe that are unquestionably white unto harvest, there are also places where God is quietly at work. God loves the nations and wants them to have knowledge of Him. I have met many people in closed or restricted countries who have lived a lifetime without access to the gospel but whom God prepared to receive His message by speaking to them in a dream. Amazing stories like this and others I have heard have convinced me that there is no place in the world where God is not at work.
4. There are kind people everywhere. | The evening news can easily lead us to believe that many nations beyond our borders are filled with nothing but angry and violent people. I have in fact met more than a few people on my travels who fall into that category. However, I have also met the kindest people in some of the most dangerous places I have visited — people of all faiths who have extended their hospitality and protection to me. These persons of peace have embraced me with the same spirit with which the Gentile centurion named Cornelius embraced Peter in the book of Acts.
3. National partners make all the difference. | Over the years I have met and worked with numerous national partners who are passionate about the spiritual and physical welfare of their own people. Many of these serve at great risk to their own lives. A handful have lost their lives for the sake of the gospel. The sacrifice of these individuals who have counted the cost or paid the ultimate price for following Christ keeps me sober-minded. I count it a privilege to pray for them, encourage them, and assist them with their efforts to reach their own people.
2. Many in our world are still waiting to hear the good news. | Years ago while in Ukraine, a friend shared the gospel with an elderly woman who had grown up under Communism. The woman embraced the gospel and then asked, “How long have you known about this good news?” Our team member replied, “All of my life.” The old woman then asked, “Then why didn’t you come sooner?” I feel the weight of my responsibility to the nations. Like Paul, I am a debtor — I understand that those of us who know Christ owe Christ to all who do not know Him.
1. We must attempt great things for God. | William Carey, the father of the modern missionary movement, said, “Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.” We can neither attempt great things nor expect great things unless we have the courage to go beyond the line that defines the farthest we’ve ever been and the most we’ve ever done for God and His purposes. Unless we are willing to put ourselves in a context where we must depend on God, we will never reach our highest potential in Christ nor will we make our greatest contributions to His work. I remain committed to going beyond in order to become and to accomplish all that God has for me.