Posted by: Philip Rushton | October 7, 2014

The Opportunities In Our Midst

A few summers ago I had the opportunity to go to Guatemala to learn from a number of grassroots missionaries. It was a very eye opening and meaningful experience. However, one of the biggest lessons I learned on that trip happened on the drive home from the airport.

As we drove up the dirt road to Julie’s parents house in Lynden we passed a very small house that is home to an Hispanic immigrant family. I had driven past the house numerous times but this time I had a different reaction. I realized that there was a deep inconsistency in my mind regarding what it means to engage in mission. While I had just spent hundreds of dollars to fly across the world to spend ten days engaging in a mission project within a poor Hispanic community, I had never taken the opportunity to walk a hundred yards down the road to engage these neighbors.

The word, “missions,” usually evokes grandiose images of going to Africa to live among the poor. We have bought into this idea that to be missional we need to travel far away or sign up for a mission trip. It only seems to count as mission if you can put it on a T-Shirt and report about it during a Sunday morning service.

I certainly don’t want to suggest that cross cultural missions are not important. God often calls people to serve overseas. I also believe that there can be great value in going on short term trips to raise our awareness of the problems in our world and to develop a heart for service. However, if we limit our definition of mission to these big things we run the risk of overlooking the missional opportunities that are right before us.

Two weeks ago I went on a retreat at the Westminster Abbey in Mission, B.C. For part of the retreat I spent some time trying to discern what God is calling me to attend to in this current chapter of my life. I wondered whether God was calling me to take on some sort of new challenge, or possibly start a new degree. I came into the discernment process with an ambitious agenda. However, during this discernment process I sensed God calling me to be attentive to the people who were already in my midst.

God spoke very powerfully during one of the morning prayer sessions when a monk read a passage from 1 Peter 5. In this passage, the author of 1 Peter gives a charge to ministers and leaders. In verse two the passage states, “God’s flock is in your midst”. This passage immediately caught my attention. It silenced the noise of worldly ambition that was clamoring in my mind. The phrase stayed with me throughout the retreat and has been resonating in my heart in the weeks following. It has been reminding me to pay attention to the opportunities to serve the people that are in my midst – my family, my congregation and my neighbors.

I am teaching a class right now about embracing our “sentness.” We have a God who sends us out into the world. We are called to “go and make disciples.” Yet, this understanding of being sent does not necessarily meant we have to go very far. Some of us are sent to far corners of the earth, but others of us are sent across the street to our neighbors, or across the hallway to the people we work with. In Mark 5:18-20 Jesus delivers a man from demon possession. After this powerful experience he asks if he can follow Jesus on his travels, but Jesus says, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” As Darren Cronshaw puts it, “He was sent to stay.”

I am starting to embrace this cognitive shift about mission in my own life. Mission doesn’t have to be about the ‘big deal.’ The people that God cares about and calls us to serve are already in our midst. The reality is that missional living can have much more of an impact if we weave it into our everyday life. For true missional engagement requires people who are committed for the long haul. We are already embedded in places where we can have long term relational engagement with the people around us.

So what are some of the opportunities you have in your midst? How is God calling you to care for the people you interact with on a daily basis?

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Responses

  1. yes, yes, and yes!

  2. My Friend,
    Mission happens in the space Our Lord has chosen me to be; right here, right now. Here is where I grow and spend the inner me, moment by moment, as I walk about and as I interact with others around me.
    I am reminded of my loosely translated quote of St Augustine, “Let’s walk through town and tell people of Christ, we can use words if necessary.”
    I think it is in Listening for His whisper, that I am prompted to interact with those around me.
    Yes, I am passionate about my Haiti mission, but that has also taught me to be extremely aware of those around me here in Longview. Once I traveled to Haiti, I couldn’t not see what was here in front of me.

  3. Thank you for your thought evoking newletter. I have been inspired by your writing. I have sent it to my brother’s girlfriend who lives in Longview, and also asked her to forward it to my brother (also living and working in Longview) though they are not churchgoers. I have been encouraged that there are folks working in the midst of a community that has been hard hit by so many things. Please pray for the workers of Longview Fiber, as my brother is on the negotiating team and they are fighting to keep their Kaiser health insurance. They are hard workers, and my brother had cancer so he needs to keep an insurance that will care for him. He’s had the same doctor for many years and it makes me sad to think he may have to give it up for a more expensive plan with higher copaymens and poorer coverage. They already have so many things to contend with such as poor retirement benefits. You are so important where you are. Thank you so much for sharing your compassion and commitment with the people of Longview and Kelso. Blessings to you and your family.

    • Thanks for commenting! Sorry to hear about your brothers health situation. Health insurance shifts can be pretty stressful if you have major health concerns. I will be praying for the workers over at Fibre. Take care.


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