So you love missions. You believe in missions. You go on mission trips: domestic and international, short-term, long-term, and everything in between. You advocate for partnerships you’ve worked with. You love the people you’ve developed relationships with. You talk about them, about their ministry and their needs. You pray for them, you get your church to pray for them.
But what do you say about the country/city you visited when you return home? What kind of picture do you paint of the place you spent your timing serving or living?
This is what we like to call the Truth Burden.
You leave to serve on a mission trip. Everyone tells you you’re crazy, you field endless questions and concerns from people who’ve never even been to that location about how it’s dangerous (because the news said so) and you’ll be too far from home and “what will you even eat while you are there?”
You ignore their concerns and go, you follow the voice of Christ in your life, even-though it wasn’t the popular thing to do. And you have an incredible experience.
An experience that shapes your heart, soul, paradigms, future, career path, friendships, and relationship with Christ. You meet amazing people, God reveals Himself to you in new ways every day. You learn more than you ever thought possible, including the basics to a new language, how to be confident in who your identity, how to handle emotionally delicate situations, and what true trust in Christ looks like.
But what will those back home learn from your time gone? Only what you tell them.
What will your parents think of that location? Only what they hear from you. They trust you, they know you, they’ll take your word for it.
The point being, for you and your mission team, it’s incredibly imperative that you are prepared for the transition back home. Coming home is where the work begins.
It’s important to be prepared for those big words from your supporters: “How was your trip?” Being ready to share the truth of your time in that city or country. It’s tempting to share the easy-to-shock, negative remarks about infrastructure or living conditions, or the shock-and-awe “you’ll never believe what happened!” stories.
We love the quote one of our staff members said, “In an effort to communicate needs and realities of a location, we can easily demean the people.”
Ouch. That’s so true. And after spending a week alongside real people who you’ve grown to love and respect, the last thing you want to do is somehow demean or degrade them and their home city/country.
So take time to think and dig down into the lessons you learned. Find the truth of those around you and who they are as humans and Christians and tell those stories. It’s your responsibility, the burden on your shoulders, to speak well and true of your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Christ has given us a responsibility. A torch that we must carry – to spread the truth. What God showed you about your host location each day. The layers of life He peeled away for you to see with His eyes - His global cause, His love for the nations. This does include pain and heartache, but it also includes hope and joy.
You probably have crazy stories you could share from experiencing different aspects from another culture.
But in life, as we share these kind of stories, there’s big potential for the proverbial fish to grow just a few inches bigger each time. “It really was THIS big, I promise!” And to what purpose? To what end? Only to perpetuate fear and misunderstanding. To create rumors, to enhance the media headlines.
And what is left out is the reality of your time there. What is left out is what’s below the surface. Your host location needs the world to know what’s below the surface in their city/country. You need to speak to what’s below the surface on their behalf.
How your heart was grasped so tightly by your experiences, at times you thought it would burst. But that you will proclaim it forever, as a torch you will carry. You are now an ambassador for this location. The responsibility will not be lost on you. That you will return someday, when you can. That others should go. That others should pray. That others should expect great things from your host location. That you will not shy away from the flame burning brightly within you for the truth.
That is the Truth Burden – and what a glorious burden it is.
The question is, what will you do with it? Will you be someone who returns home and tells stories that shock and awe in a negative way, or a positive way?
We hope it’s the latter.
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