Missions trips are an interesting phenomenon. (Usually) you spend months planning for them. Talking about what you’ll see. Working through emotions you might feel. Assigning tasks to be accomplished when you get to where you’re going.
On this trip, a common theme I’ve heard amongst the team as we talk is a wondering of what it is we actually accomplished here. We look at each other through eyes of “wow, I wish *I* could be doing what *you’re* doing here,” and then we look back at ourselves and feel like our contribution isn’t clear, it isn’t what we thought. And we wonder, is this all the mark we have to leave behind?
Today is the first day that most of us have had to really breathe. We took a 2 hour drive yesterday to visit Arba Minch for our overnight ‘vacation’ of sorts. We walked along a rickety handmade ‘bridge’ of branches to get to the small boat that we would take to come alongside huge crocodiles and hippos and flamingos, and we made it out alive. We had some time together to swim and relax and eat an awesome dinner together. We sat alongside this breathtaking view together and tried to find words for the beauty that we get to sit on the edge of for 24 hours.
But this morning, this morning is ours. Alone. To breathe. To pray. To read. To listen.
And as I sit here staring out at the sea of trees and mountains in front of us, I can’t take my eyes off of this one tree in the middle of the millions in front of me. I’ve tried. I’ve looked away, read, prayed, looked back. Tried to write a little, had some coffee, and looked out again. The beauty in front of me is so spectacular it has me in tears, but my eyes, they keep coming back to this one solitary tree in the middle of the sea of them in front of me.
And I can’t help but come to realize, that’s what He’s been trying to show me.
In front of me is a sea of trees. All different heights. All different shapes. All different shades of green and brown and yellow. But all I can see is that one.
I think I originally came here to find that one. That one thing that I was supposed to accomplish. That one thing that I could make my mark on. That one thing that I could touch. And I’ve been wondering what it is.
This morning, as I’m staring out at the beauty that’s literally on every side of me, I’m realizing, He didn’t bring me here to accomplish anything.
He brought me here to realize what *He’s* accomplished.
He didn’t bring me here to *look* for that one thing I could put my touch on, He brought me here to *be* touched, by Him.
He lured me 7,500 miles away with a heart for His people because of His heart for *me*, knowing that this trip was so much more about Him and me than it ever was about anyone I prayed to be able to reach.
For years I’ve had John 3:16 memorized, rolling off my tongue if the moment presented itself: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” It’s easy to look out at the world in front of me and think, “Yeah, of course He loves me. He loves the whole world!”
But this morning, I was reminded so clearly that I *am* that one tree.
When He looks at me, He doesn’t see the billions of people around me that He sent His son for…although He did. When He looks at the beauty He created, He sees ME. He can’t take His eyes OFF of me.
It took leaving my family and traveling around the world for Him to remind me of that.
For Him to remind me that this world isn’t about what I can do for Him, but it’s about what He did for ME. For each of us.
People have commented on how cool it is to watch how God is using us here. There’ve been comments about how brave we are to be here, doing what we’re doing.
You guys, this life we live – wherEVER we spend each of the moments we’re given- I believe the bravest thing we can do is to wake up each day and try to wrap our hearts around how crazy much our Daddy loves us. Individually. Like that one tree in the sea of the millions.
And as we do, we’ll suddenly find ourselves standing up taller and stronger, and without even realizing it our branches will reach out even wider, naturally bringing shade and shelter to the smaller ones alongside us that are just starting to figure out who they are in this world.
This week, some of our ‘branches’ reached out to those in Ethiopia. And by the end of the week, they’ll be spread back out over our families as we head back home.
But my prayer today is less about how wide each of our ‘branches’ can reach out, and more about where our trees are planted. May each of us be rooted so deeply in the soil of the amazing Love that our Daddy has for each of us that we can’t help but grow to be the tallest, strongest, most beautiful trees in the forest. Not because we long to stand out, but because as we grow in His love for us, we point taller and straighter to the Author of that love for the whole world to see.
“…And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV