Today, I am blessed to have a guest post from my friend, and Director of Missions, at the church I attend. Recently, Teresa led a mission team to Rwanda. This is what she sent to the other travelers upon their return.
By Teresa Sherwood
To Returning Mission Teams:
I’m sure a lot of people have asked you this week if you have jet lag, but has anyone asked you if you are suffering from heart lag? I know for myself, returning from these kinds of mission trips can bring on a few days (or maybe more than a few) of feeling somehow disconnected, as though I don’t quite belong here. Several years ago, I encountered this feeling in a profound way and, in sorting through it, I discovered that it was not only a matter of the heart but a very real spiritual challenge.
It was the year of our first high school mission trip to Mexico. We had spent the week working at an orphanage where the conditions for the children were really deplorable. When we left, we knew that we had only scratched the surface of meeting the needs of these little kids who had laughed and played with us all week. On the last day, we were honored with a fellowship time that included LOTS of songs and prayers and, as a very special treat, we were served Coke and Pop-Tarts. Little 4-year-olds came around and served each of us, making sure we had all eaten before they did. We all understood the value of their gift and we were humbled by it.
I arrived back home last Saturday night and by Monday morning I was on a flight to Vancouver. There, I met up with my husband, Donnie, who had been attending a meeting. Then we embarked on an Alaskan cruise. As I sat at a table overflowing with food, looked out at the beautiful, cool mountains, and made small talk with the well-dressed new friends at my table, I was overcome by the memory of the little faces for which my simple presence had been a blessing. I thought of the children who never had enough to eat, who slept in sweltering dorms, and who lacked clean water. I felt their presence at the table and, rather than anticipating the beautiful five-course meal, I realized that I was thinking of Pop-Tarts. I found myself asking my God why we lived in a world where some had not enough and others had too much. And why was I one who had too much? I looked at the other people at the table and realized that they didn’t feel the presence of these children, and they probably didn’t know how valuable Pop-Tarts can be. I realized at that moment that I had left a part of myself in an orphanage in Mexico and it had been replaced with an abiding sense of the spirit of God’s children.
A few years ago, I left a part of myself in Africa, under a tree. I gave myself away to a little girl in a yellow dress and she gave me a piece of herself that will always be with me. In that moment, I found once again how truly real the love of Jesus Christ is as it passes among His children.
I have never been able to answer the question of why some have not enough while others have too much, but I have found that God is completely present in both want and plenty. I do not believe that God would have us neglect the beauty He has created or fail to enjoy the goodness of the world. But I do believe that He calls us to put it in perspective, to understand that we neither need nor deserve such gifts. We simply thank God for them and then give.
If you are finding that you struggle this week with difficult feelings, I pray that you will explore them, pray about them, and offer them to God. He is probably making a place in your heart for something new, a blessing that will expand your territory.
Thank you for sharing yourselves. You are a blessing.
“Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness and the darkness shall be as bright as day.” Isaiah 58:10
I don’t know about you, but I will never look at a Pop-Tart the same way again.
Blessings on your day.