Last week, I had the pleasure of going on a mission trip with my church, Vinings Lake, to the Dominican Republic. While we were there, we played with children in a sugar cane village, visited orphans (some of them severely handicapped) and even did some street ministry.
All of it was amazing and had a huge impact on my family. While I know God worked wonders in our hearts, I wonder what effect we had on the Dominicans? Were we merely some Americans that came to play with them? Did they really hear our message that Jesus loves and accepts them?
I really hope we had a lasting impact on those Dominicans and while it is impossible to fully know the answer to that, it is comforting to know we planted the seed.
Suppose for some reason, we didn't reach a single person. At the very least, we helped introduce and educate them on a religion they may not have heard of or didn't understand. That is the first step.
There are those that think mission trips are a way of pushing religion on others. I think that is nonsense. It is simply educating them. There is nothing we can do to make them follow Jesus without there will. In some ways, it is like someone telling you about evolution or the big bang theory. You can listen and make your own conclusion. Now certain things can persuade you, like facts (Jesus has a little advantage with the Holy Spirit, grace, love and not to mention tons facts and proof). While Jesus may work in the hearts of those people we spoke to, there was nothing pushy about what we did. We merely presented what we know.
So, what if the shoe was on the other foot? Suppose a group of Chinese people came to me to tell me about Buddha. I would sincerely listen. Being a Christian does not mean you should be naive and close-minded. Instead, we should be open to others. We should learn about other religions and theories. We can make our own decisions as to what we believe.
And just as I was informed about Jesus and decided to follow him, now those Dominicans have been exposed to it and can make their own decision.
Isaiah 52:7 says, How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
So, our trip was a success even if we didn't save a soul. We informed the Dominicans and planted a seed.