Many missions start while people are looking at the window of their computer browser. A friend, your pastor, or a search reveals the opportunity to you. Depending on how that offer is crafted, your first exposure to a potential mission trip is formed within seconds. A clever email, a link that goes to a well-organized website or Vimeo link and you're all in. A slow-loading website, or an email with tons of grammar errors, and you're not all that enthused.
That's merely the first window. Now you not only have to pick your windows, but the lenses you bring to the trip. Each lens changes the way the world looks to you. Personal problems, prejudice, illness, or an impending winter storm will all frost the window, cloud the glass, or shatter it into a web of distorting spiderwebs.
But let's assume you make it to the airport, get down to Port au Prince, and put your gear away in the guest house. How will you tackle your mission trip?
Many missionaries to Haiti come with preconceived notions about what they will find. It's not a malicious thing, but we all carry baggage with us in this life. And because of the windows described above, you may choose to do what many do on their trip: look out the windows of your Tap-Tap and see the concrete walls whizzing by until you arrive at your stop. You then get out of the back, focusing on not falling on your face, and minding your footing until you get into the orphanage/clinic/church/museum/monument. Once inside, you focus on the speaker, or the small child you are holding.
An hour later, you reverse your course, back on the transportation, and another series of traffic congestion, walls, and concertina wire ribbons blocking out the skyline.
You return home with that remaining as your impression of Haiti/Guatemala/Uganda.
Because of that window you selected, you missed all of the other things. You missed the cloud-topped peaks of the mountains just ten miles away. You failed to watch the road-construction crew dig up a broken cable, and repair it by hand. Worst of all, you failed to see the people in your mission country and how beautiful their lives can be - because of that window.
There's the biggest challenge you face: you are there to bear witness to God, and to learn about the people you serve. You cannot do that if you are directing all of your focus on not tripping on the uneven stones that life presents. You don't hear the anguish in the testimony of the young girl who thinks her life is over at 17 because she was foolish and did drugs, or committed some sin that is culturally unforgivable. You won't chat with the guide from the other mission team who wants to talk about his trip to Portland two year ago. (Guilty.) Worst of all, you probably won't gain the warm glow of God's love that is flooding this world.
If you take that time, time to look beyond the window you have selected, you might just have the greatest mission trip in history.
Today, I'm proud to say, the Shiloh mission team broke out all the windows, and allowed God's love to flood the earth we walked. We saw job creation programs, we viewed a skyline that most never see from street level, and we talked with, and worshiped alongside, some courageous young people at Haiti Teen Challenge who listened, and pondered, what we had to say about our own lives. They shared their challenges. We shared our challenges and victories.
Tonight, we're full of great Haitian food, we have a few trinkets from the fine people at Papillion (the job creation place) and we grew as a team.
Tomorrow we will face one of our tougher days. But we're going to do it without any windows blocking the wind God uses to caress our faces.
Because that's the way this team rolls.