To Love with Purpose
It’s May…. Are you feeling it? It’s a time of preparation, especially for those of us with school-age kids. It’s my final year in this season so I am holding each item on my list with a little extra tenderness. This week we are preparing for Prom. And yes, I said we — well as much as my self-sufficient Niaya will allow it be a WE….. The dress has been purchased, the boutonniere ordered, and a plan is set — well mostly. Today is Wednesday and we still need to exchange shoes, purchase jewelry and figure out pictures. So, I feel a little stressed…
While planning for prom we are also preparing for the graduation ceremony and a party to celebrate along with booking flights, rental cars, and hotels for a road trip. This season is so important to me that I am taking great care with all of the arrangements. Isn’t that what we do for people we truly love and value?
I wonder, then, why we don’t go about preparing for loving our neighbor in the same way. I love the saying, “God doesn't call the qualified; He qualifies the called.” I believe this to be true, but sometimes we interpret this to mean we don’t need to make any sort of preparation to serve the world or just to love our neighbor. I know in this crazy world of never-ending to-do lists preparation seems impossible, but I don’t believe transformative ministry is possible without it!
Now let’s not get too freaked out here. What I am about to talk about is best practice, not the all-out LAW. We worship an All-Powerful God and I agree, if He calls His people to move in a crisis, He will be there filling in the blanks… But…..Shouldn’t it be our intention to do our best to get ready to share God’s love?
So what does it mean to prepare? Is it:
- Making shopping lists
- Packing the “right” gear
- Getting the proper immunizations
- Making payments
- Sending out support letters
- Doing practice airport check-in activities (yes, for some teams that is a real thing)
- Ordering T-Shirts
- Getting your passport
- Organize supplies
- Set-up a schedule
- Coordinating with partners
- Filling out medical releases
- Etc. Etc Etc.
*If you ever need a mission trip prep check-off list let me know. I can send you one!
Yes, you need to do all of those things, but right now I’m talking about something so much more important and so easily pushed to the bottom of the to-do list in the midst of our very important and busy lives. I’m talking about preparing our hearts, our teams and how to love the people we are serving along side well.
Whether we are sharing God’s love at work or school, serving in a local food pantry or meeting a need while sharing God’s love on the other side of the world, preparing our hearts is vital. Ok, I get it, saying “prepare our hearts” sounds pretty vague. I’m not talking about reading a few scriptures or singing a worship song. That is nice and all, but I’m describing intentionally spending time every day with God — Our Maker — who knows the most hidden parts of us. Then allowing ourselves to be loved fully by him. I’m not sure what this will look like for you. It can be as simple as daily scripture reading, devotions and reflective journaling. It may feel like a hefty cost at first. It will take time. Every single day. 30 minutes in the morning or evening or maybe 15 minutes two times a day (or really any intentional focused time that works into your lifestyle). Don’t know where to start? Ask a trusted friend to guide you and don’t be worried about doing it perfectly or feeling the “right” feelings… This is about intentionally seeking after the Lord and, in the process, He alone will prepare the heart.
Team Interpersonal Preparation
We highly recommend doing ministry in teams. Scripture tells us that we are stronger together than apart — God does send the disciples out in twos. That said, like anything else involving a group of humans, there is some additional work involved. So, if you are planning to operate in a team, then at least 4 months of monthly team gatherings is essential. Whether we are working with those we know and love, or strangers, it is important to understand each other's personalities, expectations, and giftedness prior to beginning the ministry. Though we are created to work in community, like iron sharpening iron, it can be painful. The last thing we need to do is go out as a group to share God’s love and spend time and energy trying to figure out how to love each other. We suggest teams prepare by doing monthly worship and small group discussion, serve together in a familiar ministry and discuss roles, expectations, personality types, needs and strengths with great vulnerability. Let’s at least try to get our own crap worked out before we “BLESS” others with our expression of Jesus’ love.
Let’s be honest, if we want to be as Bob Goff says, LOVE, we need to take the time to get to know those we want to love. It is up to us to look to overcome the barriers that prevent others from hearing the message we so deeply want to share — GOD LOVES YOU — That means we need to learn the language (to the best of our ability... I am language challenged), understand and honor cultural traditions, norms, and expectations and a bit about the history. I’m sure you have never heard this, but we from the U.S. have sort of a bad rep around the world…. We are proud Americans and sometimes believe that our language and culture are universal — or maybe even the best. So we don’t take the time to learn about those we say we want to “Love Like Jesus.”
It is also important to remember that we don’t have to fly over an ocean to have a cross-cultural experience. In our transient world, we can experience culture across the street, at the next subway stop and when helping people in crisis like after a catastrophic event. In 2017, the entire Texas coast was underwater as a result of Hurricane Harvey — well, really the whole southeast was overwhelmed by a series of devastating storms. This lead Christians and humanitarians from across the nation to jump into action by providing food, clothing, boat rescues and other types of emergency response like tarping roofs and delivering clean water to isolated areas. This was mostly a huge help for the communities impacted by the disaster. However, can you imagine the impact these individuals could have made if they had been disaster trained in advance? We would have seen proper tarping of homes (reducing future damage), more tender and thoughtful support of those experiencing inexpressible loss, and maybe fewer trailers full of discarded clothing or whatever else people were looking to discard. All it would take is a one day class, done in advance and lives could be transformed significantly more as a result.
Here is what I ask you to consider: If it’s not important enough for you to prepare for, is it really something you love or value? If not, maybe you should reconsider doing it. The people you are trying to love will thank you.
Recommended Disaster Preparedness Classes
UMCOR Emergency Response Team
Convoy of Hope