Saturday, November 16, 2013

Curing post-short-term-mission-trip sickness

Post-mission-trip sickness can be cured! Take two John 15s and a shot of Great Commission and call me in the morning.


Abide in Jesus and make disciples. There; you’re fixed.

What? Someone is saying, “Tim, what in the world are you talking about?” I’m talking about folks who go on a short-term mission trip and say for an entire year how much they miss it. That’s post-mission-trip sickness! And, it can be cured!

Maybe I should spell this out a little more. If you had a sickness that would take ten treatments to cure, would you go back to the doctor all ten times? Sure, yes, you know you would. You’d be concentrated on the healing, not the burden of going back and forth so many times.

Likewise, this will take you a few moments to read, and it make take a few days to get over your feelings about it and it may take a few weeks of God’s stirring before you begin to accept it and it may take a couple months for you to make it a reality. But, if you’ll concentrate on the cure, the trouble will be worth it.

Mind you, it doesn’t have to take so long. Remember, abide in Jesus and make disciples; that’ll fix you right up. But, I believe most of us need some convincing if we’re to take these things into our hearts. So, whether the following are considered treatments or truth we need to face, get ready for a potentially convicting ride.

First things first, a mission trip is about Jesus (or should be; if it wasn’t repent and then lovingly rebuke whoever planned it or rebuke yourself for going for the wrong reasons). But, assuming it was about Jesus, that’s something you miss. You went out for the Lord; you lived for the Lord; you served the Lord. Your time was spent focusing on His will for your life. Your time was spent watching your words and using up your energy in fellowship with Him.

Can you say your life is about Jesus today? One thing we miss when we come home from a mission trip is living for Jesus. Most folks return to “normal life” and drop the 24/7 living for Jesus they were experiencing while they were on mission.

Maybe, if we’re honest, some of us do not even know how to live for Jesus. Seek counsel. You may not even know it, but it’s the big thing you miss about the mission trip you were on… you miss living for Jesus!

Jesus' call to “Follow me…” is not meant to be for temporary visits to foreign countries or short trips to corporate gatherings of the Body of Christ. It’s meant for life. It’s meant for times in your family and school and job and friendships and community and EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME! He is THE way. He is THE truth. He is THE life. We don’t go to the Father, except through Jesus. We must have a Jesus focused life!

That Jesus focused life is the prescription, and most of these other 9 pills come from that bottle!

We need a Jesus focused life, and we also need a Word focused life. We were in the Word (devotional books) and under the teaching of the Word (team leader teaching and 3 Story) and leading in the Word (all the ministry activities) for 9 solid days. Not only that, we lead up to the trip with extra times in the Word. Not only that, we spent time teaching others how to teach others the Word!

Word! Word! Word!

It set your thinking.
It told your heart how to feel.
It resisted self and self-centered attitudes.
It informed our every day, all day.

Are you in the Word? That’s a start. Having a reading habit is a start. But, we also need a Word-centered meditation habit and we also need to build the habit of applying the wisdom of the Word to our lives AND living it out in obedience.

Again, you don’t know it, but one thing you missed if the focus on the Word of God the mission trip gave you. It shaped your approach to EVERYTHING!

Thirdly, the mission trip gave you constant fellowship with believers. That’s tied to the fourth thing (which has two parts); you had constant accountability.

Many of us live and identify constantly with people who do not care about God, or if they “care” about God, it’s hard to tell it affects their lives on a day to day basis. Seriously, let’s keep it real, being caught up in American culture and tripping over the silly stuff of everyday life can be cured with intentional discipleship. 

On a mission trip, we’re with the Body all the time. It matters! We are encouraged! We are held accountable for our behavior, speech and work ethic.

Who’s doing any of that for you now?
What do your friends focus on?

You see, that accountability deal is big. You were on a big team and part of a smaller team and we kept pushing each other. The other part of accountability was that excuses weren’t offered or allowed. In other words, we went on mission to get the job done, so we worked through tiredness and sickness and irritability or ____________; our family in the Lord held us accountable and didn’t allow us space for excuses!

Accountability is a huge blessing. Nothing encourages me more than someone who really cares about me staying on track as a disciple of Jesus. Do you have an accountability partner?

Are you on mission in your personal life and with your local church?

One of the great shames is (a) when people will go a long ways to serve God but won’t serve God right where they are and / or (b) people who expect to represent the Body of Christ in a foreign country when they are not committed to the Body of Christ right where they live. There is something hyper-hypocritical about these things.

You didn’t think about it then, but one thing you loved was the fellowship in the Body of Christ, every day, all day and the accountability that afforded you.

And that led you (and ME!) to the fifth thing… constant service. Even when we aren’t doing a project or preparing to do a project, we minister to one another.

Is that your mentality and habit right now?
What hobbies and habits keep you from a life of constant service?
Why will we go away and serve till we’re exhausted, but will barely lift a finger at home?

You don’t know it, but you loved the exhaustion of good works while you were on mission. The constant service blessed your heart!

And, though you might hate to realize this, the structure of your days and nights blessed you, too. You had a time for “lights out” and a time to get up and a time to eat and a time to study and a time to rest and a time to work. The structure of the trip created for you a discipline that you need to now create for yourself.

Too many things grab our attention. We are constantly diddling these blasted phones and pads and laptops and games and and and and and…

The structure of the trip was like a big knife, shaving off junk and getting to the good stuff. I think one of the BIGGEST blessings of being on most mission trips is our stinking cell phones don’t work! We actually get to hold our heads up and look around and talk to people.

Do you create structure for yourself?
It can be a huge blessing.

Honestly, it’s one reason you miss the mission.

Plus, it’s a no escape escape. What?

When we don’t have to answer the phone, we don’t have to answer the phone! We don’t have to run away from it! It’s not there to run away from.

We actually need this. We need no escape escapes. (This is #7, by the way.) We need to run away without having to go anywhere. The cell phone deal makes me think of it, but it’s true; we need to simply let some things go in our lives.

Often we cannot even tell what’s in our way until something shows us, but, when we discover it, we need to let it go. Then we don’t have to wrestle with it or run away from it. On a mission trip, you escape from all sorts of things without even knowing it!

Some of our relationships and hobbies and habits are anchors in our lives, and they hinder us from running the race of faith and service.

Some of us didn’t even know how good letting that stuff go was. We thought it was the mission trip that made us feel so good, so we want to go back. We want to escape.

What we need, though, is to let some stuff go.
Then, we don’t have to run from it or that…we can just run for the Lord!

We also loved living for Jesus without our personal history being on the scene. In other words, when we go out for the Lord to places where people don’t know us, they don’t know our hang ups and histories. They just see our smiling faces.

What is awesome, however, and where God gets glory is when we live for Jesus in SPITE of our personal histories. For example, nobody in Ukraine or Puerto Rico or Colombia or Nicaragua or any of the places I’ve gone knows I’ve been a drunk and a drug addict or that I have a criminal record. I seem like “awesome dude” to them.

And they remind me…

I don’t have to face any of that out on the road.

Not only that, but my family knows I struggle with anger and that I’m borderline sinful in how much I work and that I need quiet time (ALONE) or I’ll become a monster. I can hold it together for a few days, but at home, they know me.

At home, we have to face that stuff.
The monster is in the secrets and the denial.
If we turn it over to Jesus and let it out in the open, the power of it is released.

Finally, two tough truths (#s 9 & 10)…

IF we really missed the people, we’d be building them up in the Lord while we were away from them. IF we really missed the people, we’d be praying for them. IF we really missed the people, we would want them to come to Jesus, or if they are Christians, we’d want to see them walking passionately for the Lord. It would not be simple sentimentality.

When we really have a burden for people, and when that burden really comes from the Lord, and when that burden is born out of truly being on mission with God, we want God stuff for those people. We remember the jokes, but we long for their souls to be encouraged and for them to draw near to the Living God. That’s when we’ll know we’ve been on mission from the Lord.

That other stuff, well that’s something else.

And, if our hearts were bent for the place where we were on mission, then we’ll be working for that place from where we are. We’ll be trying to get the Gospel to them. We’ll be trying to build up the church there, so they can take the Gospel to their community.

These things are what it means for having a burden from God for a people and a place.

Now, I know, I know… you’re thinking, Tim, that’s hard. Maybe so, but it real, and it’s biblical.

Living for Jesus…
Word focused…
Constant fellowship…
Getting rid of weights that hold us back…
Facing personal history…
Getting a burden for people…
Getting a burden for places…

On a mission trip, we got all of that!
We can have it now, too!

Friends, this COULD BE the greatest thing about short-term missions; they COULD BE the thing to show us that living a life of service is good and right and a blessing to our souls. We miss that place and that time and those people because they represent a time when were starting to see through the fog and see what our lives could be.

That’s what I’m saying! But, it all starts with that first one; that first admonition...we can live on mission, but we’ve first got to focus on Jesus.

Will you? Will you focus on Jesus? Will you get on mission?
This is the life you were called to, not just a trip you got to go on…

No comments: