On which arm do you wear your watch?
This was a question asked in church recently by Rikki Grace, the wife of Pastor Ryan Grace of Bluffton, Ohio. I’ve never met them, but I can’t wait until I do. The two adults were about to join other adults and several youth from their church on a Week of Hope mission trip in Indianapolis.
Rikki then challenged everyone in the congregation to switch their watch from the arm they usually wear it to the other one. How’s that feel?
That’s just what the youth from the church were going to feel as they went on the mission trip. They would be staying in a city they’re not familiar with, sleeping on the floors, taking cold showers, eating camp food, and serving people they don’t know throughout the city…being uncomfortable…in the name of Jesus.
Who came from heaven to earth to live as a human being, dealing with all the frustration and discomforts of humanity, and eventually dying an extremely uncomfortable death on a cross. Yep, Jesus was all about uncomfortable.
And along the way, Pastor Ryan told his congregation that Sunday, Jesus wasn’t afraid to make other people uncomfortable. "Sell everything and give it to the poor," he said. "Pick up your cross and follow me," he said. And he welcomed people that society felt uncomfortable around: people with leprosy, the poor, prostitutes, children, and tax collectors.
So going on a mission tripâ€”being uncomfortableâ€”is something Jesus knew very well.
So Rikki Grace challenged the congregation: "Leave your watch on your other arm…all week long. And every time you notice it…which will be often…remember our team on the mission trip this week, and pray for them."
What a cool idea! An idea I bet you’ll see in future resources from us!
There’s something strangely helpful about being uncomfortable. It’s not pleasant, but being uncomfortable leads to growth.
When I think back on the many mission trips I’ve taken, it isn’t the comfortable experiences that stand out. It’s the uncomfortable ones.
I’m reminded of excessive heat on one mission trip, tiny cramped living quarters at another, freezing cold showers at another, and torrential rain at another. In the midst of those feelings of discomfort we were required to rely more completely on God. We knew we couldn’t do it on our own. And, in the process, we discovered first hand that God is very capable of taking care of the things we can’t control. We experienced God’s grace more completely than we would have otherwise.
Teenagers thrive when they’re put in difficult circumstances with God’s help and loving adults to help them through it. They feel God’s strength directly. They know it’s real. And they grow. It’s one of the many benefits of taking teenagers on mission trips.
And for all of us, stepping into uncomfortable situations not only makes us more like Jesus, but we grow in the process, too.
One of the reasons I prefer taking teenagers away from their home town for mission trips is precisely this reason. (It also removes the distractions of their daily lives so they can focus on God more clearly.)
So don’t be afraid to take kids out of their comfort zones…to stretch them…to make them uncomfortable.
You’re helping them grow.
And become like Jesus.
Oh…and I’m joining that church in Bluffton, OH and wearing my watch on my wrong arm until our mission trip season is over…to think about and pray for all the youth and adults who are uncomfortable on mission trips.
Doc Newcomb is a pastor, youth pastor, and Program Manager for Group Workcamps Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides a variety of short-term mission opportunities for church youth groups. www.groupworkcamps.com. Contact Doc at firstname.lastname@example.org.