There are lots of eloquent arguments both in support of and in opposition to short term missions. This blog post is not going to discuss the research, opinions or theology of all that. Suffice it to say, we (at Just Go!) believe that if done thoughtfully and carefully, the impact of a cross cultural outreach can reach far beyond a few rosy memories, some pictures with 'poor' kids and a few thoughts on changing how we spend our money or time. I mean, if you want, give me a couple of hours another time and I'll rattle off the how and why of an effective trip and a whole bunch of reasons why I give my own time, money and effort to taking young people on such outreaches....
What I will say, is that BY FAR, most of my reasons have a name. A good number of my reasons are the individuals themselves who have joined a team, and who I have served and been privileged to journey with in this country and beyond. So here's one good reason for you, his name is Alex. He was 'one of the youth' and now he's 'one of the family'... He's written a few words about his experiences last summer...
RETURNING TO ‘NORMAL LIFE’ AFTER JUST GO!
I arrived home after Just Go! about 4 months ago. Since then I’ve been on a family holiday, fallen back into routine at my home church and gone back to 6th form to do my A2s. The difficulty I faced before all that was working out how to do all that stuff after everything I’d experienced over the previous 2 weeks. How could I go back to normal life when I’d been trying my best to forget normal life while training and while on mission. The reality is, Just Go! changed me (...well, God changed me through my experience on Just Go!) and I didn’t know how to return, as my new self, to routines my old self had mastered before leaving for Holmsted Manor.
Looking back, I made a much bigger deal of it than it needed to be, because I realised that there is a simple solution! But I’ll reveal that later… I need to keep you reading somehow. Let me first tell you about my experience on Just Go! The two weeks I was away from home were possible the most fun, most God centred, funniest and most challenging weeks of my life. During those two weeks I got to know my team far better than any group of people should know each other after only having met a few days previously. The nature of being in a team like that (particularly in a team that spent so long with nothing to do in confined spaces… #MobileTeam) was that we talked… and talked… and talked and talked. Some of us more than others (yes I’m talking about you Kerry). But that meant that we were very honest and very real with each other - something that was a pleasure to be a part of. It also resulted in some rather funny instances: [Picture of Toga Drew inserted here] …I don’t think you need any context so I’m just gonna leave that hanging.
But it wasn’t just that. Approaching people on the street and being like “Hey! Do you know Jesus?” (After asking if they spoke english first usually) became normal. Praying for people in the middle of a town square in Serbia, while overwhelming, was not that scary - the opposite in fact, it was loads of fun. Worshipping in public felt completely natural and all of this was the result of what God changed in me through Just Go!
As you might be able to guess, my life before Just Go! did not really involve walking up to year 9s in the corridor and going “Hey! Do you know Jesus?”, because I’d probably be told to *swear word* off. So how, if stuff like that becomes normal do I go back to my normal life where stuff like that isn’t normal? Here’s my answer that I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for: my life before Just Go! wasn’t ‘normal’ in God’s terms. During Just Go!? That’s what’s normal. Healing the sick? Normal. Worshipping on the top of ruins? Standard. Leading people to Christ in coffee bars? Totally regular. These things are incredible, and it does them injustice to describe them in such terms, but the fact of the matter is that I want these things to be everyday occurrences in my life. I want these things to be ‘normal’ in my everyday life.
So, it wasn’t a case of going back to my old ‘normal’ life, but a case of catching it up to what I want NORMAL life to be.
That’s not so hard right? Well yes it is. But I’m working on it. It hasn’t been an easy transition, but I don’t want to go back to what I was before Just Go! where praying for people in public was so weird I wouldn’t even consider it. I don’t do everything perfectly (and that’s probably the most certain thing I have said so far) but I have really sought God so I can make small changes to glorify Him and honour the work He did in me during those two weeks - whether it’s just letting a friend know I’m praying for them, or telling a little year 7 that Jesus loves them, or even just being truly honest with some of my close friends, rather than being superficial. It’s simple stuff, and it’s all the result of the life changing, normality altering experience that was Just Go!
Let me leave you with this one piece of advice. When God changes you through life changing experiences like Just Go!, don’t let going back to what was (and is no longer) normal life change you back.