Pure Joy by Lisa Kern

“Why do you want to go?” the STAMP committee asked me.

My answer wasn’t exactly about God’s clear and present calling as much as it was about a sense of duty. A “whatever–your–hand–finds–to–do” burden that drives most of my waking hours. I can’t even watch TV without crocheting or looking up recipes on my phone or doing light exercises.

It's just the way I’m wired, so I answered the question, “I’ve done this kind of trip before (as in 21 years ago). I’m capable of doing this again. It needs to be done. Someone has to do it. I’ll do it.” I did wonder, before God in prayer, if something else was going on. With my constant need to be productive with every moment of God’s gift of time, was this trip just feeding my own addiction to productivity rather than God really wanting me to do this?

Suffice to say, I was accepted, along with my husband who led the team (which included two other area churches), to serve in Thailand, taking care of 80 third-cultural kids—ranging from babies to teenagers—as their parents attended a week-long conference that included training and much-needed rest and recreation. So, my willingness combined with the STAMP committee’s acceptance, I counted my application as God approved. Not a very spiritual measuring tool I guess, but we don’t all get burning bushes, you know. 

What can I say that would compel you to apply for one of the short-term missions trips? That it keeps you busy? That you have a skill they need and you just should go? Yes to all that, but that sounds rather sterile. There must be more compelling reasons to apply.

As it turned out, there were more compelling reasons for me as well. I did get to check off wiping noses and bottoms and consoling some pretty inconsolable (at first) babies and blowing about a thousand bubbles and singing "Father Abraham" till I hear it in my sleep two weeks later. All tasks that needed to be done; all checked off. And my deep-rooted sense of duty notwithstanding, I was blessed. Blessed beyond measure.

My mom used to come back from serving in a nursing home ministry and cry with both joy and some unrealistic guilt about getting so much out of it when she was the one who went to serve. She seemed to think serving should be hard—more of a sacrifice than plain joy. And that's my compelling reason to you. You will experience just plain joy.

You will go to serve and there will be parts that will be extremely hard, but you will be blessed. You may have to give up work days, raise support, maybe get a babysitter or a vaccine or two. You may have to buy Airborne and Zicam for the plane. But the needs are great, and I know some of you who are reading this are qualified to do the work.

You could go to Arizona to work on the roof of a radio station that broadcasts God’s love over the border. How many people might not get to hear the Word if that roof gives out? Can you help fix a roof? Or you could go and help build new school buildings for at-risk kids in Haiti, or engage Vietnamese Christians in evangelistic conversations at English language camps and cultural education excursions (in other words, talk), or build security walls and help in day camps for at-risk kids in Dominican Republic, or love on and serve through the distribution of clothes, food and the gospel to the refugees in Greece. Or, if you’re an outdoor-loving college- age student or a hiking enthusiast regardless of age who's willing to help other students practice their English language skills and open gospel doors as you hike the mountains of Romania, you qualify.

Yes, there is sacrifice. We've been back for ten days and are still resetting our internal clocks so we stop falling asleep at 8 p.m. only to wake up at 3 a.m. Someone told me that we still have about four more days before we even out. Was it worth it? It was so worth it.

If we didn’t go, topping off the child to adult ratio to exactly the numbers required by our short-term rule, missionaries with children would have had to sit out the retreat, missing out on worship, seminars and rest. And they seriously needed that rest.

I would have missed the great privilege of hearing amazing stories of triumph, hardship, heartache and perseverance to stay true to God’s calling and gospel sharing in some of the most difficult places on earth from women who are just like me—except for the fact that my life is easy. I don’t have to wear a burka. I can get any food I want, drive anywhere I want, sing Fernando Ortega songs right out loud with my windows open—any time I want.

Yet these women and I were able to sit around a table with yarn and fabric and adult coloring books (I did crafts with some of the women in the afternoons as well as baby duty) and talk about life and struggles and relationships. Aside from those hard differences, we were friends, sharing and praying and crying together like biological sisters, like true sisters in Christ. They needed that and it turned out, so did I. They were so happy to have a chance to pray, color, sew, crochet, worship, play games, get much needed counseling care and share meals with their peers. And if our team wasn't there to take care of their kids, it couldn’t have happened.

Yes, you may return a bit haggard from the trip but small price to pay for the pure joy of knowing you were able to make a difference. I am fulfilled.