Sitting in Denny's restaurant in Tuscon, Arizona — enjoying a nice dinner, none of us felt good. I had come down with some Mexican illness the past day. We were all tired, getting ready for our "red-eye" flight home to Michigan, and most of us had school or work to look forward to in the morning.
Our discontentment, however, wasn't rooted in any of these things.
The tone of our re-cap discussion was sober — we had each been reflecting on our experience of the mission trip and what the various highlights were. Brendan Murray, one of the affiliate members of our eight-man American team, somberly reflected, "You don't necessarily come away from a mission trip like this feeling good about yourself."
The next day, while I was at the height of my sickness, I remember thinking: soon I'll get better and go home to central heating, clean warm clothes, a college education, and a future. The orphans in Naco and and the kids in Agua Prieta won't have a story like that. How easily we forget these simple realities!
Most people hear a lot about poverty, and many are roughly aware of how big a problem it is. When one comes into direct contact with those whom it affects, however, everything changes. When one gives poverty a face — scruffy and unwashed — things come into clearer pespective. Namely, it's not about us and our weekend of philanthropy, or the stamp on our passports, or our "goose bumps experience" of seeing an orphan smile.
As one member of the team later commented,
maybe the Lord leads us to do this kind of work so that we wrestle with
these questions, and let the painful reality of a broken world sink in.
God wants us to realize our own helplessness in these situations, lest
we begin to rely on ourselves. Furthermore, we may reflect on the great
poverty we knew before we found the ultimate treasure hidden in the field
(Matthew 13:44), for which we have given all of our lives.
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