Why Mission Trips Promote Realism
Many girls and young women have unrealistic ideas of romantic bliss in marriage, without seeing the problems or day-to-day efforts needed to make a marriage work. Missions is no different. In most missionary presentations, we hear only about the victories and great things the Lord is doing.
I think that is for two reasons.
First, missionaries are trying to recruit people into the work, so they strongly emphasize the positive side. Second, most people, and maybe especially missionaries, don’t want to be vulnerable and reveal that they have problems. This is not helped by the fact that church people want to put missionaries on a super-spiritual pedestal for being willing to sacrifice and live under harsh conditions. So, it’s important to talk with missionaries one-to-one to hear their struggles as well as their victories.
Another common fallacy is that the lost are crying out for someone to tell them the gospel. There may be the rare exception (in Papua New Guinea, one tribe did build a church in anticipation of the missionaries coming to tell them the good news), but in general, the lost are blinded just as the Jews are. They are not searching for God and are living deceived in the darkness of their blinded condition. We will most commonly find indifference to the message, and at worst, we’ll experience downright opposition.
Missionaries who think they’re going overseas to do a great work for Jesus amuse me. We merely participate in the work God is already doing. Of course, all our friends at home will tell us what a great and wonderful thing we’re doing. Then WHAM! We come face-to-face overseas with all our inadequacies and weaknesses. We realize how much we’re actually going to have to depend on God to see something accomplished.
Many missionaries, when confronted with the reality of living in a foreign culture and the time needed to influence people, simply become discouraged, turn around, and come home.
Only when we realize our total dependence on God, wait on him, and work with him, do we finally see some beautiful fruit.