Declare His Glory Among the Nations
Psalm 96:3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!
Early tomorrow morning, hours before the sun rises, I, along with nine other team members, will be heading to the airport. Our final destination? Southeast Asia.
I imagine we’ll want to find coffee as soon as we get through security (if the coffee places are even open that early). I also imagine that, in spite of the early hour and the many hours of traveling we’ll have ahead of us, we’ll all be too excited to try catching a cat nap before the flight out.
As a missionary kid, much of this scene is familiar, bringing back memories of early morning trips to the airport and of the excitement that comes from waking up in one country and going to sleep the same day in a different one. My siblings and I would dream about flying days, telling each other prolonged and (most likely) improbable “airplane stories.” This type of international travel, this excitement, was always such an integral part of my life.
But at the same time, much of this scene is new. Growing up, I was always familiar with both places. Both were part of my childhood, even though at times one felt more like home than the other. But tomorrow when our team boards that plane, I’ll be on my way to a place that I’ve never been before. I won’t actually know what to expect on the other side of the flight.
Why do short-term missions? Why go to all the trouble to put together a team, raise support, plan out the schedule, and travel to another country for just a few weeks? Long-term missions defined my entire life—but what about short-term missions? With this trip being my first mission trip (because my life wasn’t a mission trip—it was just my life), I can’t help but step back and consider the purpose, the ultimate goal of what we’re doing.
We won’t be planting a church. We won’t be building deep relationships with people, the kinds of relationships that develop over years of communication. We won’t even be the key and indispensable elements of any outreach opportunities or ministries that may come up. We aren’t expecting to revolutionize the ministries of the missionaries we’ll be meeting, and we aren’t going because we have a wealth of knowledge to share with the people there.
So why are we going? There are so many ways to answer that question.
1. We’re going to learn.
As I said, we don’t have a wealth of knowledge to share—we want to approach this trip and the people that we meet in Southeast Asia with humble, teachable hearts. There is so much that a group of Christian college students can learn from fellow believers who have dedicated their lives to promoting the kingdom of God in a foreign country.
2. We’re going to grow in our own walks with God.
Obviously, a 15-hour flight to the other side of the world never sanctified anyone. If our hearts have been closed to the working of the Holy Spirit in America, then changing locations won’t change our attitude toward God. But we understand that, even as God has and is using different aspects of our lives here in America to mold us into the image of His Son, so He can use several weeks of focused, intentional ministry to deepen our walks with Him. Even though we understand our need for God on a daily basis here in America, it’s incredibly easy for us to coast spiritually when we’re in comfortable surroundings. But as we encounter new difficulties in new surroundings, we’ll have increased opportunities to trust God.
3. We’re going to explore what roles God might have for each of us in missions.
We definitely don’t discount the fact that God could use this time to burden specific team members to pursue long-term missions in the future. At the same time, however, we understand that God may not have full-time missions in His plans for some of us. In those instances, going on this mission trip with increase our burden to support missions while broadening our understanding of the work that God is doing around the world.
4. We’re going to encourage missionaries.
If we are an extra burden to the missionaries that we hope to serve, then we have failed to accomplish one of our specific goals. I know what it’s like simply to feel alone on the mission field. Even though my family loved the place and the people where we served, there was always something special and refreshing about having teams of enthusiastic believers come to visit. We loved meeting the team members, playing with them, talking with them. So one of our goals on this trip is to be a blessing and an encouragement to the missionaries.
5. Ultimately, we’re going to glorify God.
As the verse at the top demonstrates, God has commanded us to declare his glory among the nations. This isn’t an option for believers. Obviously, we can (and should) do that in our backyards with our neighbors. Traveling to Southeast Asia isn’t the only way, or even the best way, to fulfill this command. But it is one way. It is one way to take the marvelous, glorious message of the gospel to those who have never heard it.
And those are the reasons why we have chosen to spend a portion of our summers in this way. Honestly, it’s a joy and a privilege to take part in God’s mission in this particular way this summer!
Psalm 96:4-6 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.