Domestic vs. International

Photo credit: Samaritan's Purse

For the last week, I’ve listened to no less than three conversations debating international missions work, weighted on the opinion that there is too much to do locally to be sending missionaries overseas.  I haven’t joined in any debates, because I knew how I felt but didn’t quite know how to word it.  But as the week has worn on, I think I can verbalize how I feel.

I have a HUGE heart for missions.  I always have.  If my husband told me that tomorrow we’d be leaving to go feed the hungry in Sudan, I’d probably forget to pack I’d be in such a rush to get to the airport.  I ran the Operation Christmas Child ministry in my church in Florida, and the pictures we would receive with the information packet broke my heart.  Here in the United States, we don’t have a clue what real poverty is.  We don’t have an idea of what real need is.  We don’t have women standing in line for days, as they do in the Sudan, to receive a bag of rice to feed their starving families.  We don’t have children walking for miles, as they do in Kenya, to collect dirty water in dirty containers only to have one in four of them die by the age of 5 due to a lack of clean water.  We don’t have children rushing tourists begging for handouts like they do in Morocco.  I could go on and on with the examples, but the fact is that we in the western world have it pretty good, all things considered.

But that isn’t to say that there isn’t need here.  Oh heavens, no.  There is pain and there is despair and there is need.  There are children, who despite it all, go to bed hungry.

What there simply isn’t is an excuse for it.  Because what we have that they don’t have in abundance in Sierra Leone, a nation so ravaged by civil war that the children were handed weapons as young as age 15 and sent out to fight, is the church.

I live in a little town.  We have a darling Main Street filled with boutiques and specialty shops, a soda-pop processing plant, a light bulb processing plant, and one high school.  Our entire county’s high school population fits into one school.  We also have 75 churches.  A population of 16,000 has 75 churches from which to choose to attend.  If every resident in my city when to church, that would be spread out to only 213 people per church.

That’s a lot of churches.

photo credit: The Standard Examiner

A church in Ogden, Utah, recently spent a week with 500 members of their congregation and about $40,000 working to improve 24 houses in their community.  Instead of being par for the course, it made national news.

The church body – identified in Ephesians 1:22-23 as the body of Christ – should be so adept at taking care of the needs of the community, at feeding Christ’s lambs and tending His sheep (John 21:15-18) that children should have to look up the word “need” to know what it means. With thousands of congregants, local charities and help organizations should be turning help away instead of begging for it.

In my opinion, there should be no excuse for any child in America to go to bed hungry, to have no home, to have no hope.  There shouldn’t even be a single elderly widow with an overgrown lawn, there should be so much help out there.  The church body as a whole is apatheitcally and lazily failing.

All of that doesn’t change the fact that there is an even greater need beyond our borders.  There’s a need like we cannot even imagine.  There’s a need like most of us don’t even want to know about, can’t comprehend, and likely, on a larger scale than some of us could conceive, don’t care.

So, I do believe that there should be local missions work.  It should be the standard.  It should be what people did in their spare time instead of mindlessly turning on the television or plopping down in front of the game system.  It should be what people spend their extra money on instead of that new pair of shoes or the latest model of car or that night on the town.  It should be so normal that no one would think twice about the fact that a new roof was place on the roof of the home of an underprivileged family.

And in the meantime, the same church should be training and funding and supporting missionaries to go beyond our borders to the land where there is true need, where there is a lack of the body of Christ, where there is no one else to help.

Because that is what we are called to do.  Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and go ye therefore.  Just because we don’t, doesn’t mean that we aren’t supposed to.


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