Community and Mission in Eleuthera
Besides general prayers for family, friends, ministries, and myself, I also keep a list of specific prayer requests for all those groups. Sometimes those prayers are answered immediately, and sometimes I keep praying for years. And sometimes those prayers are granted, and sometimes God says “no.” I’ve learned that no matter the timing or the answer, God shows His mercy and grace.
I have been praying for two things for a few years now: 1) to go on a mission trip (I haven’t been on one since I went to Kenya in late 2007), and 2) closer community with other men.
Through my recent mission trip to Eleuthera (Bahamas), God answered these two desires with a resounding “yes.”
Why I Need Mission Trips and Community
I never wanted to be a short-term or long-term missionary, mostly because I Hate Roughing It. But about 11 years ago, God worked on my heart, showing me that I need to trust Him with branching out beyond my comfort zone. And beyond that, God has been showing me that I need to be missional in every area of my life – with my family, at church, in my work, in my neighborhood, etc.
Not only do I need to be poured out (II Timothy 4:6), I also need to be poured into. I have struggled with loneliness in Allendale. Though I know that God is with me (so I am never truly alone), I still have an innate need for loving community. Partly because of my own passivity, and partly because of the nature of the season that we are in, I know I have a relational void.
On this trip of 24 men (22 of whom are from Grace Church), this relational need was met. Even if it wasn’t completely and satisfied (how could it be on a 5-day trip?), I was reminded that I am united with others through the gospel (Ephesians 4:3-6). Before the trip, I didn’t know half of them at all. And even for some of the guys that I’ve “known” for years, I learned more about them in five days of fellowship and service than in the previous 6 or 8 or 10 years.
These men reached out to me in love, and encouraged me by asking great questions about what we are doing and learning. I was humbled by their interest, and energized by learning about how God is working in their lives.
Oh, and their love and help was exemplified one afternoon when my legs gave out on me while snorkeling, and I needed them to save me. For real. This is another story for another day, but let me warn you: if you are a smart-aleck jokester like me, apparently you have to call for “Help!” three times before people finally believe you.
What I Got to Do
I’ve already shared a few pictures from our trip, after we arrived back in the US on Wednesday afternoon. And you may have read my thoughts from our first two days in Eleuthera, in On Mission, Expecting God’s Reward – posted on the Doster Mission blog.
Here’s a (relatively) brief summary of what we did on this trip:
- Large group and small group discussions on what it means to live on mission in every area of our lives.
- Worship at a local church, Church of the Nazarene.
- Construction work at three sites: repairing water and termite damage at that local church, rebuilding a fence and arbor at a primary school, and miscellaneous fix-up jobs at the Bible training center (where we stayed).
- Engaging Bahamians and Haitians – adults, teens, and children – at the church, the school, and most everywhere we went.
- Talking to and encouraging the Doster family, who have been living in Eleuthera for 15 months, with only a 2 month hiatus back in the US this past winter.
- Swimming, snorkeling, and site-seeing. Don’t judge us – we were in the Bahamas, after all.
In addition, I had the opportunity to speak twice:
- I shared some personal stories and the gospel to some teenagers at a Young Life meeting, which Keith and Lori Doster work with. My message (centered around the message of the book of Hebrews) was on how God is doing something new, and we don’t just need to stick with what we know.
- I shared our personal journey and what God has taught us in our adventure in Allendale, to our entire mission team. He has woven our story into His, and we are always glad to share that with others.
Ever since I started praying about wanting to talk to others, I have been amazed at the number and variety of opportunities I’ve had to do so over the past few months. But I shouldn’t be surprised, since God is using that to bring glory to Himself and His mission in the world.
Thankful for This Blessing
I am still processing all that we God and my brothers-in-Christ taught me on this trip, and I hope to share more about that in the future.
But more than anything else, the blessing of this trip was the unique opportunity to be poured out and poured into. I came back:
- tired and energized
- challenged and encouraged
- anxious (to do more) and satisfied (in what God has done)
PS — Apparently it’s no big deal to open a window in the plane cockpit when you’re up in the air:
Edit: Read more thoughts on this topic, in Community and Mission Everywhere.