If you’re like me, you likely had a full schedule of summer plans. Plans to go on vacation or travel to a new destination. Maybe you had plans to start a project or learn a new skill. But also if you’re like me, you may have had plans to lead or participate in a short term medical mission trip. And lest I appear near-sighted, medical mission trips are not just headquartered from the United States. Brothers and sisters in Christ from all different countries use their medical skill and servant's heart to serve and share the Gospel all over the world and maybe you equally had summer plans revolving around medical mission trips.
I think no matter where we are in the world right now we can all agree that so many of our plans over the summer have been upended by COVID-19. Many international medical mission trips have been postponed due to travel restrictions and quarantines. I know this is true personally as I typically participate and lead medical mission trips over the summer months and had to make some of those difficult decisions to postpone trips. But needless to say, those opportunities have evaporated this year and those blocked weeks on my Google calendar have suddenly become free.
The clear calendar has allowed me to pause and think. Clearly, we are no longer operating our lives with a business as usual mentality. And I think that is a unique gift from God to help us slow down and reassess our lives. In that same vein, I think this is a great opportunity to be reflective about the international medical mission trips that we take every year. So I want to provide three important actions we can do now in the absence of international travel and short term medical mission trip opportunities.
Pray Fervently. I believe God answers the prayers of his people. We have an incredible opportunity to intercede and pray during this pandemic even though we may not be able to go help in person. We can pray for local churches all over the world that God would empower them to meet the needs of people around them. We can pray that God would miraculously provide necessary supplies so that our brothers and sisters around the world so they can meet those physical and spiritual needs. Pray generally but also pray specifically. I am praying specifically for those international churches with whom I am involved and for my missionary friends in different countries on the frontlines. And let's not forget to pray that God would end the spread of this virus. This has been a fruitful and humbling exercise for me. I am often guilty of focusing on tasks and getting the mission accomplished, however, the best and most productive thing I can do now, and should always do, is petitioning before the Lord. I am thankful for the conviction to pray fervently.
Think Critically. Just as we are assessing our personal lives if we want to go back to business as usual as a result of the pandemic, we should also be assessing our mission trip mentality during this break. Me and my family have talked about ways to incorporate some of the positive changes this viral outbreak has caused when things start to resume. Likewise, we need to spend time while we are not traveling and serving abroad to think critically about those mission efforts. Is what we were doing useful? Was it necessary? Could it be done better? Is what we were doing sustainable? Was it leading to dependence or independence? Was it edifying and encouraging brothers and sisters or detracting and discouraging them? What needs to change to be more effective? This may also be a great time to read some good books to help us think critically. I recently finished two very good books: Contagious Disciple Making by David and Paul Watson and We Are Not the Hero by Jean Johnson. We will have more discussions about these questions and topics in the future, but as of right now, let’s begin to think critically about our medical mission trips and other short term service engagements. We don’t want to cause more harm than good.
Serve Locally. Since I can’t really go out of my country and you may not be able to go out of your country, let’s take this opportunity to serve well in our own community. Maybe that means serving your patients in your clinic. Maybe that means volunteering your physical therapy skills for the underserved population in our city at a reputable clinic like the Christ Community network. Or maybe that means serving in a totally unrelated field to your skill set. Maybe it means serving with your family at a food bank to help local people get food during this pandemic. I don’t know where the Lord may have you serve locally, but let’s use this halt in our outbound service to look internally.
I hope you appreciate and ponder these three action items along with me. I want to look back on this global interruption and look fondly on the fact that I used the extra time well. I want to make sure that my prayer life was powerful, that I analyzed what we were doing in service projects to enhance them in future, and I want to invest in my family and local community to impact God’s Kingdom. With that in mind, let’s enjoy the remaining summer days and see how God uses us as we consider these three actions since our summer plans have been up!