The long distance call from the USA was crackling from the bad connection so common in the 1980’s, with repetition I finally got the importance of the conversation. Mr. Nicks, a retiree from Tennessee, was inquiring about the advisability of spending $1,500 for expenses to do carpenter work at a food distribution site for children in Cali, Colombia, South America where I served as a missionary. I answered quickly, “Please come! I will send you some details by mail.”
Considerable discussion exists about the value of mission work trips. People ask, “Should I spend the money for plane tickets and other expenses to volunteer service in a country other than my own or should I write a check for a given project and allow those on the field to hire a national worker to do the same work I would do as a volunteer? It is a complex question. The answer to which is not as obvious as one might think! Actually, as with so many things, both options are valid.
For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that my friend would have spent $1,500 for a mission trip to Colombia, South America. In those days that same money would have funded 6,000 meals in one of the hot lunch centers. That translated into a hot meal a day for a year for sixteen children. On the surface it is obvious the man would have done well to have stayed home and sent his money. He didn’t!
Instead, he worked from daylight to dark for twelve days building tables and chairs for one of the new centers still lacking furniture. Again, couldn’t the ten tables and sixty chairs been built by a Colombian providing that person with a job? On the surface, the man should have stayed in the USA and sent his money. He didn’t.
Let’s look at the rest of the story as it developed over the next thirty years. We will never know if Mr. Nicks would have actually sent the full $1,500 plus the money he spent on materials once he arrived. In most cases it is easier to raise money for mission volunteers than it is for the assigned project. Unpredictable spiritual experiences occur when people travel outside their comfort zones away from family and friends. Many of their defense mechanisms tumble and they become vulnerable to the movement of the Holy Spirit in their lives. When this happens, people hear God’s call on their life and make decisions that carry the potential to change their lives forever. Such was the case of Mr. Nicks.
Volunteer on mission trips face a possibility they will come face to face with the reality that the world is bigger than their own country. And, such a view causes people to begin to pray, “God bless the world, and not God bless my country,” or, “Give them their daily bread, and not give us our daily bread.” People on mission trips expand their worldview so the globe becomes more than a sphere with names written on it. Specific people literally walk on the face of every globe. No one can estimate or underestimate the number of lifetime of friendships formed between people of different countries during effectively coordinated mission trips. One twenty-four hour home visit may lead to a lifetime of endless enrichment for the family units involved.
In the case of Mr. Richard Nicks, he returned to his home church of less than 100 people in Tennessee and began to receive a monthly Sunday school offering for hot lunches for the children in Colombia. Over the course of the next 25 years he raised more than $65,000. Upon his death his son perpetuates his love for the children by establishing endowment that has grown to more than $75,000, hence providing an annual distribution for the program.
Should you go or shouldn’t you go?