I Quit Going to Church

Dear Church, I mis-spoke last week. I said our Work and Witness team headed to Puerto Rico was leaving last Saturday, but they were not. I knew that; I just said it wrong for whatever reason. They’re actually leaving this coming Saturday and will return on Monday the 18th. Pray for them as they go: for their safety, for the effectiveness of the work they’ll be doing, for the fruitfulness of their witness for Christ, and for God’s deep work in them as they serve the people of Puerto Rico. Sometimes I hear these kinds of trips get a bad rap. I’ve heard them called (sarcastically) “sanctified vacations,” or “Christians just wanting see the world” so they dress it in the garb of a mission trip. And, I’ll admit, part of what’s intriguing and compelling about these trips is seeing other parts of the world. But I really can’t find anything wrong with someone taking precious vacation days and, instead of spending money to go lay on a beach somewhere or ride roller coasters (both of which are fine), they spend money out of their own pocket to go love on and serve some people -- generally in a far less fortunate part of the world and often with back-breaking labor (or at least in less than desirable conditions). Of course, we want to be careful not to “hurt by helping.” We have to be wise and discerning in the ways we “help” so as not to create dependence or insult the dignity of those we’re attempting to help. Neither do we want to possess even a twinge of arrogance as the “wealthy Americans riding in the save the day.” Also, sometimes people say, “Why would we spend all that money to go over and help? Why don’t we just write a check for the amount of all we would spend getting ourselves there? Wouldn’t that do more good?” Can I give you the short answer? NO! And here’s why … On these trips God enlarges our hearts for his work in the world which ends up: Increasing our generosity – this is not a scientifically backed statement, but I’ll bet you the people who give most generously to missions over their lifetime are people who have gone somewhere in the world (other than the US), have seen the need first hand, have put real names with real faces and have seen God at work in their lives. Increasing our praying – I know for a fact that several of our people who have been to Guatemala on a W&W trip and have made friends there are praying (in the aftermath of the volcano eruption) with a different interest and intensity than they would have had they not gone.    Deepening our relationships – sometimes I smile inside (I try not to show it on the outside) when I hear the words, “The church is full of cliques” (yes, I’ve heard that several times) because I know that the “cliques” spoken of are really just a deeper level of relationships. The so-called “cliques” around here are not groups of people trying to exclude other people; they’re just people with a deeper level of relationships that are often forged in the fires of shared experiences – like that of having diarrhea together in Haiti. I could list more, but I’ll quit. Anyway, I think anyone who has ever gone on a Work and Witness trip (at least from GC) will tell you that, even if it is a “sanctified vacation,” God uses these experiences in powerful ways in the lives of both those going and those to whom we go. It’s just one more way of “being the church.”   Please be praying for our team leaving this weekend, Joel  
PS – If you’d like to pray for the team members by name, here’s who’s going:
Barry Jackson John Richerson  Bob & Helen Kuttes Adam Johnson James Amos Olivia Amos Bill Ashley Mimi Henwood Kim Hanson Michael Hanson Jonathan Hanson Tammy Wheat Gwen Lofing Lucas Humerickhouse Randy & Nancy Zehr Amy Marcum Brian Nagel Sergei Creech