When I was 16 years old, I went on my first missions trip. I loaded a bus with 50+ eager, young teenagers & headed to Mexico. We were so excited to share with the people of Mexico about our faith, to play out the dramas that we worked hard to practice, sing the songs we had been reciting, and finally use some of the Spanish we’d been working on the last few months.
And those things we did. It was an incredible experience for someone of my age & I walked away with a renewed mind. I’ll never forget the moment though that things “got real” for me there in the mountains of Monterrey. It was a few days into the trip and we were hiking a mountain to visit a remote village. I walked by house after house that were simply made of sheets strung together, an occasional piece of cardboard or tin propped up to block the winds. I did not grow up in an affluent area, but I had never (ever) seen anything close to this. I specifically remember wiping the sweat from my forehead & looking down at my shoelaces while I was hiking, thanking God for them. Only a trip like this could make a self-centered 16 year old teen be thankful for shoelaces.
We walked past one home that I remember in particular, and the woman standing outside greeted us with a huge smile & quickly asked us to come in her home. Our translator guided us through a small conversation with her (because, let’s be honest – our Spanish wasn’t too hot) and after a short while we were on our way out again. She motioned for us to stay put for one moment & started scrounging around quickly, pouring coins from a can tucked under a towel – ran out of her home – and came back with the most joy filled smile I had seen, and 5 cold glass Coca Cola bottles for my group and I. Of course we tried to decline or pay her for them, but she insisted & our translator reminded us that we needed to accept them or she could be offended. We hugged & thanked her & went back to our hike.
In the years of missions trips to follow, I saw the same selfless acts over and over again. Always from people who I fully expected to be asking things of ME instead of the other way around. There was the family in Honduras that saved up 3 months wages to buy the food they served to us for dinner (never mind the feathers that were still attached to the chicken in my soup). The women in India who gave me gifts and draped flowers around my neck. Time and time again, I saw joy filled people in poverty and what looked to me as extremely stressful situations who still wanted to GIVE. And give JOYFULLY!
Fast forward 13 years. I’m now a wife, a mother to 4 and a full-time business owner along side my husband. I think fondly of my days on the mission field, serving the Lord in a radical way – but honestly haven’t put much thought into how my experiences in third world countries could shape how I run my business until recently.
What if we slowed down, stopped caring about our circumstances, chose to live intentionally, fully and filled to the rim with joy? We have deadlines, and emails to answer, and bills to pay… and sometimes we may let those things be our excuse for not giving more. For not loving more. It is definitely true for many of us that we are running businesses, not ministries; however would it be so wrong to have the mindset of a missionary within our work? To always keep our #1 goal as loving people and serving God in that way? Let us learn something from the sweet people of these villages & remember this quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “The things that matter most should never be at the mercy of the things that matter least.”
I encourage us all to slow down today. Refocus on what TRULY matters in our lives and in our businesses. God has called us to love each other, regardless of our circumstances, our stress level, our income, and our mood (totally looking at myself in the mirror on that last one).