Mission Trip 2012 — San Antone or Bust!

Here is a test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t. ~ Richard Bach

I don’t like that quote of Richard Bach’s. I mean, what does he know? What if I want my mission here on Earth to be finished? What if I went contentedly along for most of my life secure in the fact that there was no mission in it for me at all? Yeah, what about that, Mr. Bach?

I will be leaving at the end of the week on my very first mission trip with my church. I was supposed to go last year but ended up with a severe infection and had to cancel at, literally, the last moment. This year’s trip has been hanging in the balance for at least the last couple of months. Circumstances at work in the form of a new software system left my approval for time off in question until late this past week. My own health issues over the past year seemed still not to be resolved. In fact, I’d already informed the lead of the mission trip that I was not going to be able to go again this year.

Suddenly, I received permission to take the time off. My reaction? Panic. How could my boss have done this to me? Here I had the perfect excuse to allow me to bow out again and she’d just blown that right out of the water. My next reaction? Guilt. Okay, there’s really nothing particularly unusual about me and guilt. In fact, it ranks right up there in my top five most likely reactions to, well, everything. Truth be told, it’s probably number one. I am extremely adept at manipulating guilt in either direction. Either I feel guilty for doing something or I feel guilty for not doing something. It’s a very versatile emotion. I believe it’s referred to as “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” For me, I just called it Being Ben.

Next reaction? Depression. I was going to be letting someone down either way I went. Those at work, after all, would be hard-pressed to survive a week with me gone. Delusional, you say? Certainly. Still, run with me on this one, okay? I asked my boss if she was going to have to drink heavily while I was gone and she said yes. I felt instantly better. Those going on the mission trip? They would not be hard-pressed to survive the week without me, but I would be left to wonder, once again, what I’d missed by not going.

Versatile, you see? Put me in a boxing ring by myself and we’re guaranteed a knock-out blow. It matters little which side delivers the winning blow, I still end up the loser in all cases. It’s sort of the nature of guilt and depression, though, isn’t it?

So, why is there more fear associated with the mission trip side of the argument over staying and making sure my department at work stays afloat that week? Change, pure and simple. There have been so many changes in my life these past few years. You’d think I might be used to it by now. You’d be wrong. I’m left wondering all the time whether or not I can survive any more change – good or bad.

What could change, you ask? And, how do you know there will be change? And how can you be sure what change and, after all, why should that be frightening in advance?

There will be change, that much I know. How? The change is already there. It’s walked with me all my life, generally ignored. The change is waiting there, just out in the wings, ready to try to take center stage unless I can stave it off once again. And I’m afraid I may not have the strength to fight it off any longer. Surrender, as it turns out, is a process rather than an event. Nothing happens if nothing happens, but nothing huge ever really happens all at once. Oh, sure, the change may be there waiting to be acknowledged but it takes some action on my part to allow it to take full effect. You might call that my saving grace. Well, it had been in the past. But, it takes massive amounts of energy to hold off who you know, deep down, you really are. It’s been a waiting game, I suppose. God’s infinite patience, it appears, may win out in the end. It probably always does, acknowledged or not.

So, what’s a mission trip? Frankly, I don’t know. Oh, I sort of know the particulars of this trip but that doesn’t mean I really know what it means. I think that’s been my fear. I think if I go I’ll find out and there won’t be any turning back. I have been told, in fact, that once I go I’ll want to go again. What? I mean, who’s got the time?

Here’s what I like about the missions I’ve seen now in two different churches. With each, the focus is on helping others. That’s it. No requirement that you listen endlessly to some church’s agenda for your soul, no coercion, no “you’d better turn to the Lord now before it’s too late” message. Showing up with open arms is all that’s required. The rest will come as it does. That’s what I like. I am convinced that I will be on a trip with a group of people who none of them believes exactly the same thing. What’s even greater about that is the fact they’re willing to admit it. It makes it a lot more difficult to try to drag someone else over to your side when you know your side is your own personal, deeply-held belief system – loosely in agreement with others on the same journey with you.

But why spend money going somewhere else to help others when there are so many in need right in your own neighborhood? Excellent question. You’re a bright group! I’m sure I must have said it before, but it bears repeating. I admit that question has troubled me a little, also. Wouldn’t the money spent be more useful given directly to aid local folks in need? Perhaps. On the other hand, here’s how it shakes out for me. Caution: this opinion may change in a couple of weeks after I’ve returned from the trip.

Going on a trip together, whether vacation or otherwise, pushes people in closer proximity to each other than is likely to happen on a daily basis. Often, that even holds true if the people on the trip happen to be a spouse or other family members living in the same house with you. One of two things, even both, are likely to happen. Either you find out that you were right about how much those people annoy you or you discover things about them that gives you a deeper respect for them. Either way, you’ve learned something and I believe that’s always useful. Win-win.

Couldn’t you do that getting together right where you are? Well, yes, to a degree. I have a feeling, though, that it’s simply easier to see (and acknowledge) people in need when you’re in a place unfamiliar to you. It may feel safer to reach out when you know you’ll be going home in a few days. I mean, if you discover you really suck at helping others, at least you will have learned that hundreds of miles from home.

On a more positive note, you may discover that, whether you suck at it or not, help is help no matter how well or poorly you believe you do it. And, that knowledge may help you return to your everyday life a little richer, a little more open, a little more caring. It may be that you discover the part of mission Bach was talking about is simply opening your heart a little more each day to the needs of others. It may be that you return home with a new urgency to reach out a hand to others right where you live. And if that’s so, it sounds like it should be well worth the money.

Garland, our fearless leader for the mission trip, says the three most important things to remember about a mission trip are: focus, flexibility, and faith. There’s a need to focus on the tasks at hand to do the best we can at any given moment. Flexibility is key because nothing ever goes exactly the way you plan it. And faith. Faith plays an enormous role here. It’s important to have faith that it will all work out the way it does and, somehow, that will be enough.

So, frightened though I may be about the potential result, I’m packing my sunscreen, a hat (hate them), two sets of work clothes, toiletries (no need to stink up the place), medications (a whole separate bag, in my case), work gloves, reusable water bottle, a swimsuit (yeah, like I intend to let anyone see me in that), and bug spray. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? Either those with me will discover I’m not as patient, spiritual, and serene as I occasionally appear or I may discover that I’m actually more patient, spiritual, and serene than I believe myself to be.

Years ago, I had an intense fear of asking someone to dance. Only a small part of that had to do with the fact that I’m an awful dancer. When I sobered up, I came to realize asking someone to dance never once killed me. Not once. Can you believe it? I suppose a fear of reaching out a hand to someone else is the same. No matter how much I fear simply breaking down in tears at the mere gesture of offering help, it’s likely that also won’t kill me. Not even once.

Perhaps Richard Bach is right, after all. I’m not dead, yet. That said, the mission must not be over.

4 thoughts on “Mission Trip 2012 — San Antone or Bust!

  1. Wow, for someone who’s never been on a “mission trip”, you have pretty much summed up the last 8 years of my feelings about going on the Royal Lane Baptist Church mission trips!

    It started with a passing thought and much trepidation of the unknown about going to work with the Lakota Indians on their reservation in South Dakota in July 2005 because my spouse was of Chickasaw Indian lineage. To my surprise, he mentioned his interest in the trip to me even before I had a chance to say anything to him – and so we made the commitment to go.

    It never occurred to me, the decision to go on that one mission trip, would continue yearly at this time every July thereafter. What started in South Dakota led me to Appalachia and Whitley City, McCreary County, Kentucky in 2006, and on to the black land fields and towns of Marion, Alabama for a memorial mission trip to the heart and center of the Civil Rights movement, in honor of our beloved RLBC member, Sue Washington in 2007. Next, with everyone beginning to feel the effects of what was to become known as the 2nd “Great Depression” and funds and rummage sale proceeds short, the Missions team wisely decided it was time for our soon to be graduating youth learned that mission work begins at home. So for the next two years of 2008 and 2009, we stayed in Dallas and were “on mission” partnering with Pastor Chris Simmons and the Cornerstone Baptist Church, doing what we always do on mission trip, namely, plugging into the various ongoing outreach ministries which Cornerstone provides to serve the impoverished people of Southeast Dallas. In 2010, it was time for RLBC missioners to hit the road again. God led us to go serve His work in New Orleans, Louisiana in the aftermath and ravages left behind by the devastating and deadly, Hurricane Katrina. What a variety of interesting tasks awaited us there. Something important for everyone to do and wonderful friends were made there. Last year, 2011 found us working in the Rio Grande River Valley of Texas at Eagle Pass during the worst drought and hottest summer on record for Texas. But we loved it all, especially seeing how needs were being met thru the work of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as we worked with Rick McClatchey of CBF and others from Dallas based, Buckner International Ministries. And oh, the miracles that God provided for successful completion of this trip! They were countless and so was the wealth of appreciation by those who were touched by these efforts.

    And so the odyssey continues as we come to Mission Trip 2012 and look forward to whatever experiences God brings us as we reach out yet again, to assist however we can, God’s work in San Antonio. Our ministry partners this year are Baptist University of the Americas, Alpha Home, Christian Assistance Ministries, San Antonio Area Food Bank, CBF Vacation Bible School at a large apartment complex, etc. But none of this would be possible without God’s guidance and the staunch, dependable support of the Royal Lane congregation, who give their time and money to provide the materials and financial needs required for our work by those of us who actually go on these trips.

    Only once in all these years did I ever consider, even briefly, not going on the annual mission trip due to age, health, available funds, and personal mobility issues. But my son-in-law saw through my insecurities and caringly said, “if you don’t go, you’ll regret it immensely and probably will never go again.” He was right and I went and haven’t regretted being a part of the RLBC Missioners Team a single year. And God has kept the opportunities coming my way for me to serve his work still to this time.

    So, now you can see, where one small passing thought morphing into a decision made many years ago has led. So welcome aboard this train of Christian love of humanity, where you will receive untold blessings from the people and organizations we serve, as well as from those with whom we work and travel as part of the “RLBC Missions” team.

    • Oh, come on, Susie, tell us what you REALLY think! Okay, okay, you’ve sold me. It dawns on me that as I feel better physically, it’s easier to actually get excited about the upcoming trip — trepidation and all. Gee, if I didn’t know better I’d think you were kind of fond of the people at RLBC. Thanks. Stay tuned, updates to follow.

  2. There will definitely be a follow-up blog to let you know if I discovered these people are as annoying as I suspect they might be or if I discover they are the loving people they’d like me to think they are. Personally, I’m thinking it’s going to be the latter. Don’t you just love discovery? Oh, I suppose I’ll probably let you know what kind of changes there are for me, as well.

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