On the eve of the first full week I've returned from Rwanda, I can't get it out of my head that we need to continue developing the notion that togetherness is the key for progress both spiritually and physically.
As a fifteen year Veteran in Youth Ministry, I'm constantly being challenged by my colleagues to do ministry certain ways. They say things like, "Well this is the way we do it," as if ministry is like some open up the box off the shelf and press the START button for your minute of spiritual development. It might sound intriguing, but it rarely works.
For example, I've been told on more than one occasion, "Short Term Mission Trips are a Waste of Time and Finances."
According to one of the largest youth ministry organizations in the world, somewhere they've done studies on those who attend short term mission trips and they've compared their attendance to their continued faithfulness and pursuit of the gospel.
What a ridiculous notion!
After seeing 33 students encounter the poor of Africa, I can say with certainty that their lives will never be the same. Whether or not they pursue the gospel is a matter only they and God can reconcile. It's not the success or failure of a short term venture that can be the only variable in the equation. After all, with that criteria for a study, you might as well ask, "How many people sitting in your church are following God with all fullness in their heart?" The conclusion might lead to a statement that "Members of your church who sit in the pews are a waste of time." (Obviously I'm overstating this notion, but you see how ridiculous some people might tend to go to prove their point.)
Sure, short term trips don't have near the impact that a long term tour might be, but we must begin measuring the success of our trips and the fullness of our impact on the next generation more comprehensively.
I'm sure if you ask the three widows whose home we painted, they'll never be the same.
I'm sure if you go back to the orphanages we visited the kids will never forget the Umuzungu (the white people) who visited one week in March.
I'm sure as we watch Kids Across Africa grow into a vibrant center for African development, we will forever be a part of a place where Rwandese people might come and be discipled in the name of Jesus.
My notion is, we must pull out all the stops if we are intentionally trying to help teenagers develop a whole worldview consistent with the Global Village we are a part of.
They must be exposed to the ideas of other cultures.
They must see how the gospel can go forward translated into different countries.
They must be able to be intelligent when they extend the hand of compassion to the poor.
And the bottom line is, we're all humans on this planet trying to live together; and togetherness is the only way we'll be able to share.
After all, the sum total of God's explanation about how we should all come together is detailed in Paul's discourse to the Romans, "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Romans 12:4-5)
The Power of Togetherness is crucial to the way the Love of God must be presented around the world. We need to couple worship services with discipleship training sessions, camps, retreats, and yes; even short term worldview trips, in order that we might fan into flame the gifts God created in each one of his members to function as a part of a larger body of people.
It is my desire that we might have a place where students and adults alike could be encouraged to fulfill their God given gifts, and we might be able to bask in the creativeness of a wonderful Creator as His will continues to go forth. Loneliness has no place in this story. For God created a way that we might worship Him together no matter who we are, what color skin we have, or what culture we come from.
May we be a people who ignite a movement of togetherness.
May we be willing to share our lives with others, rather than at others.
May we continue to push the boundaries of what we know, so that we might extend the hand of god to all those who need to hear.