Is Mission Work a Success Without a Tangible Objective?
It's hard for me to believe that in just three weeks our next team will be on our way to Uganda. I am basically still processing what our previous team did while we were there in early August, but our next team has been meeting now for months to prepare for our trip, which leaves on October 5th. The mission of these two teams couldn't be more different in planning, people, and objectives, while all being unified under the banner of Matthew 28:19.
Over the last few weeks I have been trying to figure out how to explain, in actual words, what it means to "go", at least in the context of going to Uganda. Since coming back from my last trip I have been asked many different questions, but the questions that are the most difficult for me to answer are the ones that require a tangible objective reached to be valid. They are perfectly valid questions when it costs so much to "go", but it's also mutually exclusive to the directive in Matthew 28:19, and a tangible result (or lack of one) doesn't always equate to success or failure of the mission.
There are so many different churches, groups, and organizations working in places all over the world like Uganda that most "trips" are setup to specifically achieve objective A-B-C, and when they get back, they can say, it was a success, we did A-B-C. These are "clean straight lines" as our beloved staff member likes to say. Problem is, as I have learned, it isn't that clean, and the lines are rarely straight. They aren't arranged efficiently to move down from point A to point B while all done in the proper order. Of course this is mainly because we are dealing with people here, not data points or entries on a balance sheet to put it in accounting terms I'm familiar with myself.
No one travels over 16,000 miles without planning and preparation, and specific objectives they would like to see accomplished, but the words of Matthew that say "make disciples of all nations" isn't a precise checklist, thank goodness. I took many classes in seminary that were specifically discipleship classes, and one basically spent the entire semester discussing those five words. For some teams "make disciples" means installing rain catch systems, for others it's digging a well, or building a church building, or playing soccer. Sometimes, "make disciples" means building relationships, and how do you quantify that into points A-B-C, and why would we want to. And that's what I love about our mission. We have done and are doing the specifics, but it's for the purpose of building relationships with those brothers and sisters in Christ and for those who have yet to hear the Good News, and the results are not always quantifiable in western terms.
Our team that leaves in three weeks has every single day cram-packed at this point. For the first time we are going to be working with 60 Feet, an organization that "bring[s] hope and restoration to imprisoned children", research in the science of clean water at the university level, and a host of other things in Buloba and the orphanage. Will these translate into tangible objectives reached? I have no idea, and I am starting to ask why it is so important other than to satisfy our western view of productivity and progress. If we were a corporation it would be totally different, but we aren't, we are working for the objective of Matthew 28:19. Accountability and using the always limited resources of any non-profit is of the utmost importance to everyone, but I still think the end result has to be balanced with the goals of Matthew 28:19.
Years ago I probably wouldn't have ever written this post, but then, a few months ago, I met the girl in the photo I took above, and realized that she doesn't care about any of that. David Platt did a much better job explaining this than I just did in his book I reviewed back in March, Radical. This journey didn't start for me back in March, or during this previous trip in August, and I don't expect it to end with this next trip in October, because this is what God has commissioned us to do for those who believe in Him, and I hope I will always be involved in God's objectives, tangible or intangible.