A Case for Mission Trips

They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. -Mark 8:23-25

Have you ever read this story and wondered what in the world is happening and why Jesus healed this blind man this way? The way Jesus healed this blind man is perhaps one of the most unusual methods in Scripture:

  1. Jesus didn’t just open this man’s eyes right on the spot he came to him. Jesus led him by the hand and took him outside the village.
  2. He didn’t just touch him like other blind people. He spits on the man’s eyes and then puts his hands on him.
  3. It is also unique in that it seems this miracle wasn’t instantaneous but happened in two phases. 

What in the world is going on here?

I’ve often pointed to this miracle to make several points. The first is that there is not a formula to follow for healing. Jesus dealt with people very personally and individually, and sometimes he heals in unusual or unconventional ways.

The second way is to note that not all healings are instantaneous, and sometimes miracles unfold through a process and take time. 

Third, I like to use this story to relate to how sometimes it takes Jesus leading us by the hand and taking us outside our everyday environment for our eyes to be opened.

For this article, that is the point I want to emphasize in connection with short-term mission trips. I know I am writing this when travel is still quite challenging due to COVID, but as things begin to open back up, I hope to make a positive case for why you should consider a short-term mission trip.

Short-term missions have got a bad rap in recent years, often for some legit reasons. I have a number of books that point out some of the harm mission trips have done in other countries for several reasons. 

But I believe the issue is our attitude and approach to missions, not missions or short-term mission trips. When approached with humility verse seeing ourselves as the hero’s the world needs, and when coordinated with national leadership in the countries we are going to, it can be a mutually edifying experience.

Further, I believe mission trips to other countries or cultures help us to see more clearly our personal and cultural blind spots. I know whenever I travel, I learn as much from those I am with as they might learn from me. I also come to see, value, and respect other cultures and recognize other ways of life different from my own. In some cases, those ways may be more biblical, or my own are seen more clearly for what it is: American culture, not necessarily typical or biblical culture. 

We always like to see our way of life and culture as superior to others or perhaps more efficient, effective, or biblical. We at least think our way of life is normal and others abnormal. But serving on a mission trip has a way of opening our eyes to both the beauty of other cultures and ways of living out our faith that might challenge and edify our walk with Christ. 

I think missions, even short-term mission trips, are vital for these reasons. We need the perspective of the global church and our brothers and sisters in Christ worldwide. When we get outside our own culture, our eyes are opened in new ways. And Jesus often works in our hearts and lives in unusual or unconventional ways. Miracles even begin to unfold as we open ourselves to what God might have for us. 

If you can’t travel internationally, there are still plenty of ways to get outside your familiar environment or culture right where you live or nearby. Commit to serve, for example, at an inner-city mission or some other local charity setting. Getting outside your own social or cultural circles does not require leaving the country. It just requires allowing Jesus to lead you by the hand and letting him work in a way that will give you new vision, insight, and clarity!

***Consider joining me on a ServeNow mission trip! It will be an experience you won’t forget!

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