Missions–What’s It Really Like?

March 1, 2008 at 8:40 am 6 comments

Take a moment and write your missions history.  What are the influences on your life for missions?  Do you give to missions offerings and pray for missionaries?  Have you been involved in mission action projects or in short-term mission trips?


Bro. Ray over at The Well has been revved up on missions this week.  He asked us these questions, and it would take a lot more than a comment to answer them.  I thought I’d take it on this morning in a quick writing session before a full day with Upward to close out our season.  It’s a lesson assignment, so MUCH longer than my normal posts.  It may be more for me than for you…assignments usually work that way.  Seems like a trip down memory lane…

Bro. Ray said:  “Begin to prepare for the future and how God can use you.”  I thought that was funny because my experience is that you always feel completely unprepared for what lies ahead of you when you get involved with missions!  I guess I realized today the double-sided coin: missions has prepared me for life as much as my life has prepared me for missions. 

Key words I would use are are availability, calling, commitment, attitude, and willingness. 

As a grade school student, I went to a GA, or Girls in Action, camp, when we moved to Illinios for a year.  At that camp, I committed my life to God for full-time service. I wanted him to have all of me for use, whether that meant formal missions or…whatever.  The later things God called me to in my life did not seem to mesh with my earlier commitment initially, but mentors helped me realize it is availability God wants from us…an open slate for Him to fill in however He wills.  My husband and I still dream of doing more formal missions work at some point.

Earlier in my life, I spent most summers in high school with Mike Brady calling me up on the phone with his “more cheerful than life” voice acting like the thing he was putting together was the most elite organized endeavor and he needed the best of the best.  Of course, we were all sold.  We got there to determine no one had thought of the Kool Aid, kids weren’t informed that we were coming, we didn’t know the schedule or what we were doing… basically, we were winging the whole thing!  Augh!  But, you know what?  The amazing thing to me was that the kids loved it, we were blessed, and it was a hit.  Kids were won to Christ. 

  • We often let our need for planning stop us from getting anything done. 

We’d show up at the housing projects in town, knock on doors, and tell them we were about to have a puppet show and some games and COOKIES and would they like to come?  Kids poured out like ants on watermelon.

Only, it wasn’t time for the cookies yet! 

And it was July.

101 degrees or so as I recall.

And we had HOT, HEAVY, puppets to deal with, and a curtain and some PVC we didn’t know how to put together.

Did I mention none of us had ever really PERFORMED a puppet show before? 

One lady coached us, dear that she was!  “You can do it!  Isn’t this fun?”  as we complained about the weight, and the blacktop and not knowing what we were doing.  It was epic

  • In missions, we can sometimes let lack of experience keep us from doing what needs to be done.

Despite our feeble attempts at humor and organization…the kids LOVED it.  The ate up the attention.

  • With missions, your something is sometimes better than the nothing that’s already happening.  Just care about people.

We sat down with old VBS materials, no cork boards, no fancy materials or decorations…just maybe some simple paper flyers with the times of our meeting on them.  We simply told them a Bible story…one like Noah and the flood. 

  • With mission you don’t need expensive materials

This was my point of shock–THEY HAD NEVER HEARD ABOUT NOAH AND THE FLOOD BEFORE.  From the mountains of Eastern KY, to inner city Miami to the North of Conneticut, one thing was a constant, a glaring, heart-wrenching reality.  These kids had never heard the stories I’d heard so many times I was growing SICK of them.  Never.  They did not know who Noah was, or Moses, or even {gasp} JESUS.  They didn’t know who Jesus was.  They may have heard his name somewhere, once.   Just really let that sink in.  The US.  Close to us.  South of us.  North of us.  They have no idea.


For the two week Miami trip, I went to help with music, which I had some prepration for.  I was most nervous about the medical preparations about not touching people with open wounds and things.  At that time, HIV was at the height of it’s scare and it was new to all of us.  A third of the kids had been exposed to HIV we were told.    

The first day of the Miami mission we were overwhelmed to realize we didn’t have enough classes for the bulk of kids who came.  I was asked, “Do you think you could teach a class by yourself?”  Cringing, no supplies, no materials, no help for a week with inner city, potentially HIV infected kids in an unfamiliar environment, locked in a church literall with chains around the doors.  Whew. 

I said “Yeah, I’ll try”. 

That’s why I gave two weeks or so of my summer, right?  Might as well jump in!

I recall that my first day, I was dealing with an emotional event within the team.  Put stressed, tired, and emotional people together and you are going to get some firecrackers going off, let me just say!  I was prayerful!   Kids poured in…fourteen or so.  The first day, the only idea I had was “salvation bracelets” with beads on some yarn.  Anything!

  • Emotional events happen on missions teams due to stress.  You have to learn to stay focused.

That first day went well, or so I thought.  I made it through the day with no major ordeals.  The kids were a little high strung, but okay.  At pick-up time, I met a Haitian mother in the stairwell who’d gotten past the guard at the door.  She started pointing to his wrist in a rather animated fashion saying “Voodoo!  Voodoo!  No!  No!  NO!!!  YOU VODOO!” 

She was afraid I’d cast a spell on her son.  Great.  She wouldn’t bring him back, she said.  I tried to explain, but the language barrier was just too much.

I was afraid they’d fire me that day.  But, they said, “That’s part of it.  We don’t know what will hit people the wrong way.  Just keep going.  You’re doing great.”  I didn’t get into trouble.  No one reprimanded me.  Some prayed for me and even cried with me…we were a team.  What hit one of us hit all of us.

That particular project did not translate well cross-culturally.  And, sorrowfully, I could not bridge the language gap well enough to help her understand.  I did not know how many mom’s she’d talk to or if we’d have a class at all the third day.  I was exhausted.  It took us an hour and a half one way to get there in the heat and rush hour traffic.  Oh, I prayed!

  • Even with preparation, you never really know how people will react cross-culturally.  Keep trying.

The next day, the rest of the children did come back!  In fact, numbers went up some.  I was so relieved that I still had a job to finish.  Yet, that day brought more challenges. I had two boys in my class who made such trouble fighting that I had to send them home.  HOME!  I wasn’t even sure I could do that,  or if they could get out of the building.  But, the left and went somewhere.  I was hoping I wouldn’t get in trouble.  They seemed pretty free-floating kids anyway.  And I prayed.

They did not return that next day.  I was heavy-hearted over them.  And I prayed for their salvation.  The day after that, they did return.  Cookies and crafts, and basketball…who can resist?

  • Children respect you more with clearly defined limits.  You can’t teach if you can’t get control of the group.

I still helped with music some as a support, but as it turned out, there was an old lady in the church who had ALWAYS done the music and sang her songs.  If I’d refused my new assignment and done only what I was ready for?  I would not have had a job at all.  Glad I didn’t stick to “my area”!   She was about 90 years old and looked like Mother Theresa to me.  She knew these kids.  And SHE sang Jesus Loves Me!  She stuck when them.  They knew He must love them, too.  She WAS a living Jesus to them already.

  • Be willing to shift areas to those who are more skilled or fit better than you.  It’s not the place for “I wanted to…” or pride.

The Haitian children had lovely braids, and big smiles.  They giggled a lot.  The girls rubbed my hair ALL the time.  They would say over and over, “I love your hair.  It’s so soft. I wish I had hair like yours!”  I’d always particularly hated my hair–I think most teenage girls do!  Miami humidity didn’t help.  They made me smile.


This is the inner-city church where we served.  The pews are NOT padded.  They didn’t seem to mind.  (Photo courtesy of Leslie T., resident team photographer).

  • You always bring back more than you take with you to mission work.

I had to deal with one scraped and bleeding leg from basketball on the courts.  I remember the walk to the First Aid box and asked for bandaids and antiseptic and the look I got as I did.  I said, “I know what to do.”  I cleaned the dirt and gravel from the wound, applied the ointment, then the bandage.  I loved that child.  And that love took care of my fear.  What I dreaded happened, and I had a peace and a calm that it was worth it, whatever happened.  I had gloves.  When I went to wash my hands, I breathed deep and I prayed.


Later we went to the mountains of Eastern KY.  I went several years, I can’t remember how many.  At least two.  I was prepared to do music and help with crafts at an air conditioned church.  We didn’t know we were also needed to go up into the mountains to assist another group with a two day BBC (Backyard Bible Club). 

The roads!  Mercy.  Narrow with no shoulder, winding, up, up, up, up, higher and higher into the tops of the moutains where the air was thin and I learned about antihistimines.  I remember the man who drove, though I won’t state his name.  He wasn’t very fond of the brake!  The children came… from where?  I have no idea. 

The locals knew where they were — all I know is, they came on foot to a little flat area.  It was between two mountains where there was a river in between and a high, narrow, swinging foot bridge across it, quite a few boards broken out and loose.  The boys in the group learned from local boys to swing the long bridge over the water.  They, of course, scared us girls out of our senses!  

  • Keep safety and people’s limits in mind when you play practical jokes.

I say that jokingly here, but I’m also not kidding.  When people stay upset for days over a practical joke, it drains energy from the team. 


(Me on piano; our own Michael T. leading worship in the morning, Hyden Baptist.  After lunch, we went into the mountains for “Backyard Bible Clubs”.  I had never played for a group before this time.)


(Both of us leading silly VBS songs at the church.  Neither of us had ever led groups in song before this time, but they had no one.  We had fun, and were usually hoarse for the day afterward.  They LOVED to sing!  We did it twice, to open and to close.)

At the Backyard Bible Club up in the mountains, I literally had nothing.  Not a book.  Not a piece of paper.  We sat in something like a baseball dug-out and I told a Bible story. We played some games in the dirt…they loved it.  The very next day I told them about Jesus and what he did for them.  When I asked if they wanted to be saved and have Jesus for their friend for their whole life, as their Saviour, all but one of my seven or so students raised their hands, all at the same time, rather seriously.  I thought, “This can’t be right.”

I was so shocked that I went out and talked to the leader before praying with them.  He said, “Lead them in the prayer.  They are old enough.  They may not get another chance where they are.  Leave the rest to God.” 

  • Sometimes, we can only plant seeds.  But, someone must plant.  We pray for the water-ers and the harvesters who come behind.

Wow.  Well, later, I was so burdened I could not sleep that they had no one after I was gone to strengthen them.  I wished there was a “Phase 2” to follow up when we go in like that.  But, I was told “you planted a seed”, that is all you can do.  We pray for God to water it and make it grow.  I still pray for those groups of kids today from time to time. 


My Junior year we did so much work my parents claimed I was never home.  They were right!  I kept thinking, “Why would I want to stay home?”  But, now that I’m a parent, I understand that!  We went on a trip to the New England states.  We helped a church survey the community, led a Backyard Bible Club, and hosted fun activities in the evening for the local youth group to try to ignite their fire for the Lord in their church, and reach out to some neighboring people in the community as I remember. 

We’d been trained to go door to door and do surveys.  We did it mid-day in the summer, it was hot, and finding people home was a problem.  When we did, not many were open to strangers.  Of those who would talk to us, maybe 10-15 a day, we found that most in that area had a Catholic background and said that they had “a close relationship with God”, yet most went to church 1-2 times a year– at Christmas and Easter.  They did NOT consider church attendance important.  That information was startling to us.  

On a practical level, it did not take us long to realize that a team worked better pairing guy-girl both for safety and reception, rather than what came naturally for us.  That was a new bonding experience for the group to be willing to pair off and work together when we were used to picking and pettiness!

  • Teamwork and practicality take a team from petty to productive. 

We stayed with host families in all of these trips.  They were all kind and sweet, gracious, and quirky, but, we quickly grew to love them, and they us.  


So, where does all that leave me today?  A year or so ago, Bro. Ray challenged us to pray at New Year’s time for opportunities for evangelism.  I began praying for things that would work with the other assignments and priorities God seemed to have already given me.   

Not long after, I read on-line in a blog about an opportunity to do on-line follow-up with people who’d just made decisions on the net for Christ.  It was with a respected ministry I trusted and knew of.  It sounded cool, but the timing wasn’t right.  I put it on the back burner.  A few months later when my kids were all in school, I looked into it, talked with Bro. Ray, and decided to give it a shot.  It’s been a great learning experience.  I’ve been caught of guard with it and have needed counsel and prayer on several occasions.  But, I needed as much from it as I’ve given to it.   I needed help sharpening onversational skills in helping people open up about spiritual things in the context of the needs in their life and it’s been great for that. 

Miracle of miracles, last week I was informed I have one of the highest response rates in my community, and was asked to help contribute to a letter that went out on how to improve response rates.  God is good!  But, boy!  I still have MUCH to learn. 

I am now a “follow up” person needed in the chain. 

  • Some plant, some water, some harvest.  Every step is indespensable.

The computer is limited, yes…but it also has it’s advantages.  It takes away the language barrier (most of them can read English better than they can speak it).  Also, I’m available to them 24 X 7 through times of crisis. 

There is growing opportunity and technology using local churches and even cell phones for areas across the world where computer access may still be limited.

Our Upward programs are another area where I have tried to stretch myself.  Writing Upward Soccer devotionals and evangelism messages has been very challenging not only to get written, printed and delivered, but to learn to connect with people meaningfully on the field each week for five or six hours in the Spring.  If you want to learn to walk up to strangers and try to witness using paper, this is the way.  You have to learn to smile and connect or the time is wasted, however. 

Missions…it’s not being given a title or a job or a role.  It’s saying “here am I, send me” and meaning it. It’s filling holes.  It’s staying out of the way when you aren’t needed.  It’s doing things you don’t know how to do and trusting God with the results.  And all of that is hard heart work.

  • Mission doesn’t HAVE to take a lot of money, just contacts and willingness to go. 

It DOES take a few super-dedicated people to cook and do crafts and help organize housing and transportation and be responsible for the safety of people. 

  • It’s worth it. 

There are many hours you seem to be doing nothing, and some hours when you are in a total whirl of activity.  There is often a LOT of improv!  You learn to not have an agenda, to be ready to make anything work, to constantly work on relationships, to have thick skin.  Whether serious or foolish, everything you do can open people to receiving Christ, playing ball, playing cards, including people in your work you don’t know.  Plans fall through, new ones have to be made.  There is sickness.  And lots of driving.  But, through it all, people come to Christ, somehow.

I hope you will consider showing up, learning to make yourself available, fill the gaps, serve, whether you feel able or prepared or not.  God will plug you in where you have strengths you didn’t know you had.  He equips us and makes us enough through Him.  Commit your life fully to him, and try to say “yes” to Him when it’s your turn.  Be open to being stretched in VBS service, in opportunities to tell stories, in opportunities to become comfortable with all age groups, and all types of people.  Teach Sunday School.  Visit nursing homes.  Practice caring for people and serving with people.  In that, you become ready for missions, wherever you find yourself.  God WILL use you, and teach you… through it all! 

Entry filed under: Evangelism, Everyday, Missions.

What a Day A Big Day for Boy Wonder

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Cindy  |  March 1, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Enjoyed this post and the pictures. You may not know it, but this post was confirmation of something I will share with you later.

  • 2. Misty  |  March 1, 2008 at 11:51 am

    I don’t know what I like best–all the stories of kids coming to Christ or the picture of teenage you with braces 🙂 How cute!

    Maggie replies: Yeah, I thought about doing a fashion commentary on the braces and no makeup, but the post was long enough as it was! I wore braces FOREVER! I still have some of my baby teeth and they had to dig others out. I am an oral anomoly!

  • 3. ~E  |  March 1, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    I must admit that time is short and I have not read this entire post yet, but I must comment on something. Until I saw this picture of you, I never thought Boy Wonder looked like you. But guess what! I think so now!

  • 4. Mike Brady  |  March 2, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    Thanks for taking me back to those fond memories of seeing small children come to know Christ, and what you all could not see at that time, teenagers becoming ministers that depended upon the Christ that dwelt within them. I love ya!!

  • 5. Stacey  |  March 3, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I have never thought about my missions history. I have always been very, very intrigued and excited about missions. I would love to travel abroad and go on mission trips. I’m not sure how that would work out with little ones, but it is something I definitely have a heart for.

    I have done local missions through O.A.F.C. (Ongoing Ambassadors for Christ) I participated in several weekends while a youth in the Lutheran church. You basically stay with host families from the host church over a long weekend. During that weekend you have worship, fellowship and learn skits and witnessing techniques. Saturday afternoon, you break up into teams and those teams go door to door witnessing and distributing information about the host church.

    Overall, we were not very successful but it was a wonderful experience being able to share Jesus with others, even if they were not overwhelmingly responsive.

  • 6. Kevin Leggett  |  March 4, 2008 at 12:26 am

    My involvement in missions has been an interesting journey. While in high school, I did the youth trip thing. During the summers, I worked as missionary at a lake resort (I am being serious). In college, I was a missionary to homeless, poverty stricken and Native American Reservations.

    Post-collegiate years, I was working a Bible Study weekend. A guy who was an alcoholic was there (long story). He saw me during worship and it lead him to Christ. He’s now a missionary to countries all over the world.

    I have personally shared my house to missionaries from South Africa and one of the Invisible Children teams.

    It is neat to look back. This was a great post. An encouraging one to say the least.

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Sifting the joy from the mundane:

recording, photographing, learning, creating.

I am married to the love of my life, as we raise three children, learning the ways of grace.


Magnanimity (derived from the Latin roots magn- great, and anima, soul) is the virtue of being great of mind and heart. It encompasses, usually, a refusal to be petty, a willingness to face danger, and actions for noble purposes. Its antithesis is pusillanimity. Both terms were coined by Aristotle, who called magnanimity "the crowning virtue."

Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary of the American Language defines Magnanimity as such:

MAGNANIM'ITY, n. [L. magnanimitas; magnus, great, and animus, mind.] Greatness of mind; that elevation or dignity of soul, which encounters danger and trouble with tranquillity and firmness, which raises the possessor above revenge, and makes him delight in acts of benevolence, which makes him disdain injustice and meanness, and prompts him to sacrifice personal ease, interest and safety for the accomplishment of useful and noble objects.[1] (Source: Wikipedia)



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