#2 Lesson from Honduras: The mission BEFORE the mission

First, I am not a “missions” expert.  These are simply my rambling reflections about our recent mission trip to Roatan, Honduras.Image

As our trip for Honduras approached, I became more and more anxious.  Part of my anxiety came from the “unknown”.  The other half came from what I knew, rather, what I had learned from our Dwellings contact about our build.  In the weeks prior to our departure, he posted pictures first with posts in the ground, then with floor joices set, then with a floor on! Though you would think such progress would encourage my excitement, it only served to discourage it because we weren’t the ones doing it. I feared the 10 strong men on our team would not have enough to do, that we would be unchallenged or bored, that we wouldn’t struggle or work hard, that we might not suffer enough, or that we would otherwise waste the time, money, or energy we had built up over the last 6 months. I feared that our “mission” would be done the day we started.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it, we later learned that our mission was not primarily to go there to build a house. That was what we were doing, but not what God would do in us. Alas, that is a lesson for another day.   But on the Monday we arrived, the first thing we did was go to the build site.  My fears only increased as it ‘appeared’ as if the building was nearly half complete (It wasn’t)!.  We surveyed the site, planned the next day, ate dinner, then spent some time discussing our “expectations” as a team. This was the first of several good conversations. I honestly shared some of the fears I had felt, specifically concerning what I “expected” would be lackluster project devoid of enough: blood, sweat, and tears to make it worthwhile. It was then that one man on our team reminded me of the mission before the mission.  

Sitting in Honduras, what was clear is that a house would be built of a single mom, her sister, and five children. That was the original vision for the mission and that was what we were about to do.  Whether the build took us only 6 hours or a full 6 days, our mission would be completed.  But the mission didn’t start on the Monday we arrived.  And those who brought it to completion were not only those who would swing a hammer.  The mission began nearly a year prior and included hundreds of friends, family, and even a  few strangers.  There is a mission before the mission–the work that God does through His people, for His glory, before a single board is ever nailed.

There was the proclamation before the mission:  The mission began with a small idea, but the vision was supported by a big idea–the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We were on mission to make the kingdom of God tangible.  We were on mission to go, love, and sacrifice someone who didn’t “deserve” it because Jesus came, loved, and sacrificed for us when we didn’t deserve it. . That mission began centuries ago and in 2013, a small group of men went again to remind people that Jesus is still saving.

There were the conversations about the mission: For whatever reason, people have an easier time of starting conversations about homes in Honduras than they do about their faith, their church, or their Lord. In the months prior to the build, hundreds of emails and face to face conversations took place.  We were excited to tell everyone (believer or not) what we were doing: friends, family, doctors, co-workers, baristas, even strangers. And, to our surprise, they all wanted to listen.  They wanted to know what we were doing, when, and why.  Many seeds were planted in the months prior to our leaving.

There were the events to support the mission: There were several fundraising events designed to help us raise money for the mission.  And though only 10 guys actually went on the trip, a ton more helped to organize these events.  The mission, before the mission, provided an opportunity for people to be a part of God’s work even if they couldn’t go.  They used their time, their energy, their resources, their homes, their creativity, everything they had to see this mission completed.  The mission gave focus to the “new” in faith and energized the “old” in faith, bringing everyone together with ONE mind, as ONE body, to complete ONE task, for our ONE God.

There was the giving toward the mission: Though we had nearly 9 months to raise the money (12k), at the beginning of January we had only raised 25% of what we needed for the build.  By the end of January, we were funded 110%. God is amazing. . But God works through people who gave sacrificially to support this mission.  Some gave as little as $10 and some gave as much as $1,500.  Our givers included little kids with allowances, teenagers with minimum wage jobs, young men with families and bills, older men with careers, unbelieving family members, friends who have never stepped food in our church, family doctors who heard about the mission from their patients, fireman who heard about it from co-workers, generous people at garage sales, even a big supportive group of longshoremen who simply love a good game of poker.  We are grateful for who God moved to give.   But I’ve realized that money is no object in God’s economy--it’s simply a tool He gives to use to point others to the Son He gave.  

The mission before the mission is something that often gets lost after the completion of the mission. Many will argue that short-term missions are a waste of time, money, and resources. I do believe we need to be wise in how we go on mission, but I have seen first hand the number of souls that even one simple mission can impact.

We need to be on mission here, there, and everywhere.  For a few it will mean a sacrifice of actually going “on mission”. But for most, that will mean staying at home “on mission”.  But what does that mean? For many it will mean sharing the vision with others.  For others, it will mean giving of their time or money. For some, it will mean employing their gifts.   And for everyone, it opens their eyes to something bigger than their own little kingdom.  This is the invaluable mission work that occurs before any “work” is done on the mission field.

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Author: Sam Ford

Sam Ford is a preacher, planter, and pastor from the Pacific Northwest. He is currently pastoring Restoration Road Church in Snohomish, WA.