Recently I was in a meeting of the youth ministry minds where this question was asked:
“How often does your group, your youth or your church think of missions?”
The answers ranged from weekly to monthly to an honest, “never.” It was a great question that I felt was poised around “opportunities” to “go and serve” both locally and abroad. In short it was really asking how often we “went” somewhere to think of the people outside the doors of the church. I believe this is an important question and I was humbled at how much others are doing to inspire students to “Go, make disciples.”
Later that week I was taking a flight with my husband. It was on one of “those” airlines where you do not get to pick your seats ahead of time. Instead you line up in a lump by “zone” and hope for the best (unless of course you want to pay the extra to get first pick.) My hubby and I ended up in the final zone, making me really grumpy that we would probably be separated for a four hour flight. Although we ended up towards the back thankfully we were together.
Now what I didn’t tell you is that I really hate to fly. It makes me nervous on a good day. Yet this time I especially had a knot in my stomach since my flight the week prior had literally bounced through the sky for hours until I reached the safety of the ground.
The “glitch” in this system of picking your seat was that families sometimes get separated. It happened on this flight; a Dad and young child needed a seat that was not separated. The voice on the intercom was asking if two people would move so they could be together. The attendant made jokes about, “babysitting the child next to you” if no one would move.
No one budged.
Again the plead was made, explaining that the only empty seats available were two middle ones in exit rows. A small child is not allowed there. I looked at my husband and asked him if, “It was the right thing to do to give up our seats.” We waited for someone else to step up. It didn’t happen.
Did I mention this flight was at night and I hate, really hate to fly in the dark?
An offer to buy those that moved alcohol was made. I don’t drink.
One more time with desperation, the attendant called, “We can’t move the plane until this Dad and child can sit together.” It had moved from an inquiry to a demand. Still none of us jumped up.
We looked at each other. Sighed. Gave up our seats. I got to sit in the middle of two people who had brought on food that stank to high heaven, were unfriendly, drank “Bloody Mary’s” the whole way and the flight was bumpy. It wasn’t pleasant.
I did not want to give up my seat next to my husband. I did not want to have to sit where I did. I wanted my way. Obviously so did everyone else on the plane. Yet, we knew the “right thing” was to let the Dad and child be together. We wouldn’t want our little one to be stuck next to a stranger just so we could be in a window or an aisle. While I lost four hours of conversation with my hubby there are worse things.
I wonder if thinking about “missions” is far simpler than we realize.
I got “nothing” out of moving. I asked if I could exchange the offer for alcohol for free wifi and the answer was, “I wish I could do that for you.”
There are so many lessons in my little interaction about the reality of “missions:”
- Sometimes you serve because it’s right, not because you want to.
- The “blessing” of serving is not always immediate in getting to “see” a “finished product.”
- Service could be about going out of your way. When I had asked if I could ensure a seat next to my husband in the first place I was simply chided for not paying the money to get one early. I was offered 3 $5- $7 drinks but no one could float me a code for $8 internet. What about a policy so that children always sit with parents?
I am not the picture of perfection here. I didn’t want to be the person who moved, I just did. I should have been the first person willing to go, and I am sad to say I wasn’t.
Trips are worth it. Yes, put them on your calendar. Use them as a catalyst to get your students thinking beyond themselves. Then teach them to give up their seats. The big events only work when we learn how to use them in the day to day.