Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why go to Swaziland???

We have a team getting ready for another trip to Swaziland in sub-Saharan Africa. As we prepare and pray for this trip, I can’t help but think about what happened this Easter break in California. Many [many, many] churches canceled their Mexico mission trips and decided to do something significant in the mission field at home. Swine flu and political unrest made Mexico’s spring break mission “hot spot” much less desirable.

Our Youth for Christ chapter was one of the home mission fields. Situated in a blighted Fresno neighborhood we have plenty of needy urban kids. A team from Sacramento spent the week with our neighborhood kids doing VBS. The week was fun and full of energy. Anywhere from 10 to 30 kids showed up every day. The team brought resources well outside of our budget. Several kids made decisions to follow Jesus. We were blessed, the Sacto team was blessed, the neighborhood kids were blessed. But YFC is in the neighborhood and the schools day-after-day, year-after-year. There are plenty more kids where these came from, and many other mission agencies slugging it out day-after-day. So why are we bothering to go to Swaziland (or Mexico), with so much mission work in our own backyard?

It’s not a rhetorical question. I don’t intend to state the obvious, and I don’t have the answers. I’m grateful that this year the Lord seemed to bring local mission opportunities to the fore. In our case, the day-in-day-out work has been producing fruit for 65 years. But serving in downtown Fresno is not as exciting as taking a team to Mexico (or Swaziland). And as limited as our resources are, we have an abundance compared to many mission posts in the developing world. And what if every American just decided to stay home? What kind of kingdom difference would we all make in our own communities if the overseas mission field were not so compelling? What kind of mission work wouldn’t get done if we all stayed home? Are our trips overseas really making a difference for desperate people who need help (and need Jesus), or has our mission work become little more than an adventure for Americans, a chance to do something a little more glamorous than mission work in our own backyards?

I have some [mixed up] thoughts, but I’d like to hear from others. If you are on the team heading off in a few short weeks, what do you think? What about our host, Pastor Arnau van Wyngaard (read his blog here)? Others?

In the weeks ahead I’ll post some thoughts here, and also post thoughts from my teammates. While in Swaziland, we’re hoping the whole team can jump in a few times with updates, and I hope others will jump in with us.