Xenacoj – Responding to Naysayers, Doubters, and Inquisitors

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We’ve received a lot of encouragement and positive comments in response to our short-term missions trip to Santo Domingo Xenacoj in Guatemala.  Honestly, this is not the reason for going on this trip.  While it has been nice to get some positive feedback, our trip wasn’t meant to bring the praises of man.

I guess I wasn’t totally surprised when we heard some positive comments and encouragement related to our trip.  But I was a little surprised by some of the comments and questions that came as a result of our trip.

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Seriously, here are some of the comments and questions that I received before and after the trip:

  • Why would you go to Guatemala (or any other foreign country) when there are people in the United States who need help?
  • How do you justify asking people to help fund a missions trip when you surely must make enough money to fund such a trip?
  • What’s the purpose of a short-term missions trip?  Are you just trying to make yourself feel good?
  • That’s good for you and your family, but we could never do something like that.
  • I tried volunteering, but it didn’t end up the way I wanted.  I’m glad it’s working out for you though.

It’s hard to know how to respond.  I certainly don’t want to come across as “holier than thou.”  I have plenty of faults and things to work out.  And to be honest, I’m still figuring it out.

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But here are some of my thoughts:

First, I agree.  There are plenty of people in need right here in the United States.  In fact, there are plenty of people in need right in our area.  Our family does try to serve locally.  And I would encourage everyone to find a place to serve in their communities.  Check out soup kitchens, nursing homes, and food pantries to start.  But trust me, as Americans, we are all part of the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the world.  Visiting a third world country can open ones eyes to how most people live in the world.  I’m confident that our family was made a difference while we were in Guatemala, but I’m also certain that the people of Guatemala made a huge impact on our family.

As for fundraising, this was a tough part of our trip for me.  If you know our story, Leanne and I were scheduled to go to Kenya three years ago.  We had raised nearly $8,000 to cover the of the trip when we had to cancel the trip due to health concerns.  So many friends and family had donated generously to our trip, and we didn’t have trip insurance, so we pretty much lost everything that people had contributed.  Asking again three years later seemed like quite a risk to me.  What would people think?  It was a tough decision that required faith.  The other side of it was related to my pride.  Yes, God has blessed me with a good job.  An engineer in the United States surely makes more money than many, but here’s the reality – it would be pretty challenging for us to pay for this trip on our own.  Was I embarrassed to ask for funds to help with this trip?  Yes.  Maybe.  But there are reasons that we could not afford such a trip without a little help that don’t necessarily require justification.  Past financial decision.  Current giving habits and commitments.  The cost of raising a family in our area.  All of these things and more could be used as justification for our decision to ask for support.  But there’s a little more to this decision.  Many people in our area aren’t ready to take a trip to Guatemala (or any other strange land), but they want to help.  I hope that we were able to give people a sense that they were helping.  I also help that we inspired people to consider how they might take their own next leap of faith.

Before this trip and definitely after the trip, I felt a renewed sense of calling to my job and to our area.  There are plenty of lost people in our area who need Christian influencers in their lives.  A short-term missions trip certainly doesn’t solve all the problems of a third world country or village.  But it does make a difference.  As I stated before, the trip made a huge difference in our family.  Trust me, our kids have a different and broader view of life, poverty, thanksgiving, and love as a result of this trip.  The Bible is clear that we are called to go into ALL nations baptizing and teaching people to follow Christ.  Following the Great Commission requires some stretching.  A short-term missions trip may be just what you need to get a new perspective on life.  It will stretch you beyond your comfort zone, and it will open your eyes to a whole new world in need of God’s love.

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Yes.  It is good for our family.  But it can be good for you too.  You can go to Guatemala, but you can also serve right where you are.  Don’t become paralyzed by the patterns and temptations of this world.  Get outside your comfort zone.  Make a decision today to help someone who really needs help.

Stop making excuses.  Stop living through others.  It doesn’t matter how old or young, how fat or skinny, how rich or poor, or how cool or not you are.  You can make a difference.  You can do something to forever change the lives of others.  You can serve.  Don’t let another day go by without making a decision to be a change agent for someone in need.

I’m sure we’ll get other questions along the way.  I’m sure I’m still figuring it out.  But I’d rather be active, uncomfortable, and stretched than inactive, lazy, and full of excuses.

Choose today to make a difference in someone’s life.  Maybe it means overseas missions.  Maybe it means going next door.  Don’t wait to have all the answers.  Don’t wait for things to fit cleanly in a nice box.  Serving can be messy, but it’s so worth it!

What can you do today to make a difference for someone in need?