Fanning Hope’s Flame

ImageWhat is it about seeing my World Racer’s face on a computer screen and hearing her voice that stills my heart?  It’s not like I talked to her every day when she was living away from home before.  We might check in once a week or so by phone.  I did not feel the need to know her every action, or movement throughout the days.  I trusted that she was going to classes and learning whatever it was she was supposed to be learning.  Or that she was working, performing the requirements of her job.  Or socializing with her friends. She did not share the small details of her life on a daily basis.  However, now that she is halfway around the world I find that my heart wants to know every detail.  This is not because I am worried or anxious.  It is because she is doing purposeful work that she loves.  I want to know about the people she meets, and the work she is doing.  I want to know how the world is changing because she is there.  I want to feel that I am there with her experiencing what she is.  My heart is stirred and I feel that she is the link that connects me to that feeling of excitement of living life on purpose.  Seeing her face and hearing her voice quiets my heart for a few moments to contemplate my own world.

I don’t know if you have ever been on a mission trip, but I have been on many.  All of mine have been in the U.S. and all have been short term…one or two weeks.  I have heard it said that you go on mission trips to change the world, but what really changes is you.  I would agree with that statement.  You cannot look into the eyes of an orphan without it softening your heart.  You cannot help the elderly without feeling a twinge more compassion.  It causes you to appreciate all that you have when you work with those who have nothing…lost to storm, or to life. Mission work gets into you.  It broadens your small view and boxed in world, breaking it open and with it…also your heart.

But mission work can also be mundane.  It is hard.  It is not all glorious God moments.  It can be dirty and backbreaking if you are on a construction trip.  It can be overwhelming if you are working with the homeless…because there are so many and it seems so hopeless.   On and on it goes, and it is clear that the world is a broken place and that it will take more than one or two weeks to make a dent in the need. The questions arise quickly.  Am I doing any good here?  Will my efforts produce any difference in the world?  What does wiping these little noses, and playing tag do over the long term?   How does talking to someone for 15 minutes make a difference over their lifetime?  It is easy to get discouraged and wonder, ‘What am I doing here? Why even come?’

If you cannot take a long term view it will wear you down.  At least that is my experience.  You have to know that sharing Love’s story and being his hands and feet is never wasted.  You have to see that being a representative of Love in unlovely places is more than a “magical moment.”  It is breathing life into death.  It is bringing hope into hopelessness and despair.  There is a cumulative effect of mission work over time.  One conversation about Love will not always change a heart immediately, but multiple conversations/demonstrations of him will open the eyes to SEE.  The spark of hope flickers deep in the heart, which translates into a smile that transforms the face.  Each time after that, the spark grows, until one day the heart is engulfed in hope’s flame and must receive Love’s gift or explode.  This is not simply praying some prayer.  It is transformation.  Resurrection.  Coming alive.  Love cannot be put in a box, or forced.  God moments happen when heaven touches earth.  Love’s wounds are the bridge. Sometimes we have the privilege of witnessing this birth of life.  Others we simply fan the flame.

When I see Hannah’s face it reminds me of these things.  It stirs them up inside of me at the same time it quiets my heart to hear.   As much as I want her to experience God moments, I know that every moment will not be glorious.  I know that much of her time will be fanning sparks that may not burst into flame in visible ways during her stay.  My prayer is that she will learn to see the everyday for what it is…an opportunity to be Love expressed.  Not necessarily measured by “prayers prayed” but by lives touched.  A demonstration of grace and Love personified.

Not only is this my prayer for her, but it is also my prayer for me.  You see, it would be easy to watch her from across the ocean and feel that I somehow have a lessor task.  That somehow I am not called to “missions” in the same way she is.  I could go about my days in my routine of life and wish to be living a life on purpose.  Or I could realize that I too am a demonstration of grace and Love personified.  That Love is needed in classrooms, offices, and churches in my own culture.  I could remember that many mundane days do not mean nothing is taking place.  And that to experience God moments is not up to me…that’s why they are called God moments.  I simply have to breathe life and hope into my every day circumstances.  To look for him all around me.  To allow Love to express himself through my actions and know that even little things, like teaching kids to read or being kind to others, make a difference to him. I may not always do it well, but he is faithful to use my attempts to make himself known.   And while I am excited about Hannah’s world travels and long to be a part, I realize that some of the hope she is sparking resides within my own heart for my very own mission here.  A reminder that Love wins in my world too.

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