“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[a] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
The great commission. Most of us know it well. Such an exciting call to join God in his work. Therefore, go…. Love that command to action, the command to do something, to get up and go somewhere and reach someone in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. I have taken that “Therefore, go” command seriously and have chosen to go as often as possible. I have learned in my many mission experiences, mostly to Cuba, that it can’t stop with just the go.
What happens once we get there is so important. The way we represent God, the church and our country through the way we talk, act, respond and interact with people is vital to our ability to effectively make disciples. As Americans, we have a tendency to want to do things our way, and that line of thinking can cause barriers and make overseas mission work ineffective. Losing that way of thinking and embracing new ideas and new cultures is vital to successful mission experiences.
Here are some key ideas we need to abandon when we head overseas to carry out the great commission:
1. Doing things the good old American way.
We need to get rid of the idea that our way of doing things is the best way or the only way. In other cultures our way of thinking, doing ministry and doing many day to day tasks does not work. Their obstacles and our obstacles are different. Their resources and our resources are not the same, and their culture and our culture are most likely completely different. So, go with a servants heart ready to join them in their work, and do it their way. You will be surprised how much you will learn and grow as a result of getting into a new culture and way of living.
We have to abandon our American stress about the schedule and the timing of things. We are far more concerned about being on time and keeping a schedule than people in most other countries, especially in the islands. In Cuba, we do everything on “Cuban Time”, which means, it happens when it happens. And, when it happens may be somewhat close to what it says on our schedule, or it may be totally off.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to things coming together at a slower pace, such as lack of or hard to get resources and unreliable transportation. We have to learn to go with the flow and remember that God’s timing is always perfect. Some of the best God moments happen at unexpected, unplanned times.
3. We are the only ones who have something to offer.
While the focus of our trips should always be being a blessing to the people we are serving, we also need to allow them the blessing of giving, and we need to go with hearts open to receive. When I first started doing missions, I found it very hard to be served and to receive things from those I was working with. Their resources seemed so small compared to mine and I did want to take the little they had, whether it was a meal, a small gift or just going out of their way to serve me. In my mind, I was there to serve and they were there to receive.
I soon realized that, by not allowing them to be givers, I was robbing them of the blessing of giving and robbing myself of the blessing of receiving. I have found that the people I have served through missions have given me so much more than I will ever be able to give to them. I am blessed to consider many of them among my best friends and no longer feel like I am going there just to serve, but rather to work alongside them in the ministry that God has called us to do together as brothers and sisters in the faith. This shift in mindset has greatly changed the impact of our mission work.
I am a life changed by missions, and a firm believer that living out the great commission, when done the right way with the right heart, can be transformative. In my 21 visits to the beautiful island that now feels more like home to me than home itself, I have watched fellow missionaries living out the great commission in ways that have left them totally transformed and, in turn, have left the lives around them transformed as well.
When you choose to follow that, “Therefore, go” command remember to do your going with grace, love and humility, all reflecting the character of the One who commands you to go. And keep in mind that God goes with you every step of the way. As it says, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” So, go and be transformed in the process.