Missions: Local

As a child, my idea of a missionary was someone who traveled the world and spread the love of God wherever their travels took them! It was such an exciting concept, living in a strange land surrounded by people you couldn’t understand, and living in conditions that were very different than home. I aspired to do this, to travel the world and see what I could do for God. However, as I got older, it became clear that God had different plans, He started directing my heart towards various local children to teen aged programs. In a very short order my passion changed from travels to staying in Winkler and serving God in through local missions!

Local missions often don’t sound exciting to young people, they are too busy chasing after adventure to notice the adventure God might be calling them to right in their own backyard. Local missions can actually be just as exciting, and perhaps even more challenging than missions in some far off land.

What does local missions look like? It can be anything from helping a homeless person by giving them a couple of bucks, to large operations like Siloam Mission in Winnipeg, it can be as simple as saying a prayer for a strange or as complex as supporting a new family in your city, it can be seen or unseen.

This blog post is not to argue that people shouldn’t do missions far away, but that those that are called to local missions heed their calling, commit to their calling, and plant seeds in their local communities. So what I would like to look at is what does the Bible say about mission, what I see the local church doing correctly in regards to local missions, what I think our local church’s could perhaps improve/include in their local mission work.

I want to start with what the Bible says about missions, as I think the Bible is our ultimate guidance when it comes to living a life committed to God. Mark 16:15, Romans 10:13-15, 1 Chronicles 16:24, and Luke 24:47 are just a few verses where we are called to spread the Gospel and God’s love. They talk about the necessity of Christians spreading the word of God, to bring God’s love to all peoples in all locations across the globe, this means your neighbor and even those who would choose to harm you for your belief. We need to remember that in order to live a life devoted to God, we have to listen to his calling, and not our own selfish desires.

One thing I have always commended our local church’s (in Winkler) for is their ability to put aside their differences, and put on a joint worship service every year for the Harvest Festival. I absolutely love the fact that we are so community minded that we are willing to work together to further our brothers and sisters in their walks with Christ! Some things I admire my own church (Grace Mennonite Church) for is their devotion to our local youth, we put a lot of focus on our youth programs and I think it pays off, we have youth heading into all sorts of different mission fields, whether far away or close to home. I think that our church’s have a great awareness of the hurts in our local community and do a great job encouraging others to support local charities/organizations. I think our church’s as an organization is doing great work.

Where I see faults in the system, is with volunteers, I have found that over the last several years there has been a large decrease in volunteers, our church’s members, don’t seem to understand the value that their time adds, it is not all about money; money can keep a program funded, but without volunteers it won’t run. An example of this is my local church’s Sunday school program, every year we start late or just barely make it in time, because we do not have people volunteering as teachers/activity leaders. The tasks of being a Sunday school teacher are not complex, in fact they are very straight forward, everything is laid out for you and you basically have to show up and talk with the kids about Jesus! How hard is that? and guess what leading an activity station is even easier! This same rule applies to most organizations, the jobs of 90% of volunteers are easy and the only thing they require is time.

Basically, if you feel called to local ministry, don’t shy away from it because you think it won’t be an adventure or because you don’t think you will make a difference. Jump at the chance to serve your local community! God calls us to be a shining light on a hill, we live in a dark world that needs to see the light, and that applies to everyone. Live life as a servant because Matthew 20:26 says: “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant”

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Homelessness, Refugees, and Homosexuality

Sometimes I feel that as a church we have this mentality that because someone comes from a different background than you or has different world views than you, we must put them in a different class of humanity and treat them differently than we would another human. I think this is wrong, God created all of us, and our job is to be God’s ambassadors! This means that we love those around us with God’s eternal love, whether or not they are making mistakes in their life, or going through a difficult time.We can show them God’s love and hopefully lead them to Christ who will then take over and start correcting their actions/or life experience.

My personal experience with Homeless people has varied, In grade 10 I took a trip with my senior youth group to Winnipeg, MB. One of the things we had to do was an urban plunge, and during this urban plunge one of our goals was to eat lunch with a homeless person whom we had packed a lunch for. My group wandered around the north end and eventually found someone to share a lunch with, I don’t remember everything that happened, but I remember that we got the chance to talk with this man and to learn about his life. The reason I like this memory is because I made it a point to treat this man as I would treat any other adult, with respect. This has not always been my experience, over the next 2 years of High School I became more shallow and started to judge the homeless people I would see, and if I thought they were too unclean, or not worthy of my time I would walk past them and treat them like garbage. Then we went on another trip, this time to Los Angeles, here I saw a whole new level of homelessness, there were people everywhere that were struggling, whether it was someone truly homeless or someone who struggled to make ends meet. It became clear to me after that trip that I could not continue to treat people like garbage, and that when someone needs my help it is my obligation as a Christian to help to the best of my ability. I try to treat every homeless person I see as an opportunity to show God’s love, and to bless someone, who deserves a blessing as much as the next person!

Recently, Canadians and others around the world have been given an amazing opportunity to bless men, women, and children from Syria with a new place to call home! I have heard many positive things about this, but I have also heard the negative. I would encourage those in the church that feel negatively about this opportunity to read Matthew 25:31-46. It is made very clear that when we help people in need that God is pleased with us! He has entrusted us with sharing his generosity that He has given us with the world.

Finally, our church has been in talks a lot recently about whether or not we will leave our church conference, and the reason we have been doing this is because the conference has been taking a very passive (aka not making a decision) on the subject of homosexuality. This confuses me because there are a number of verses that make it very clear that this is not something that God approves of. First it talks about it in the Old Testament with Leviticus 18:22 and then again in multiple places in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, etc. The New Testament also confirms that marriage is between a man and a woman with Mark 10:6-9. So my stance on this is clear that homosexuality is wrong, but God does not tell us to treat these people different. Yes, what they are doing is wrong, but as a Christian to a non-believer our objective is clear, to love them and lead them to Christ, once that is done Jesus will show himself to these men and women through the Bible and the way other Christians live their life, and hopefully they turn from their sin and repent and ask forgiveness, just like when we sin, we need to repent and allow God to take us back and commit ourselves to God. They are human and need to be treated like any other human being. God looks inside us at what we can be if we choose to follow Him.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. – Anne Frank

I know there will be people that disagree with me and I would love to go out for coffee with anyone to discuss these topics!