The following post is an excerpt of one I wrote in May 2007, before my second trip to China. I remembered it this week as I pulled out my faithful mission trip companion, my "travel Bible." By God's grace, that sweet Bible and I have shared many more miles and trips together since I wrote about it that spring day 4 years ago.
In just a few days, I will be returning to Ethiopia with a God-assembled team of 8. There are no words to describe how excited I am, but the post below still seems to accurately capture my "pre-travel" emotions. Some things never change! Thankfully, our Great God never does, and His Word is as true as ever.
May 9, 2007
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10:14-15
It is a time of preparation. I have never had a blog during my times of preparing for mission trips before, so I've never really written about what I do. With just over a week until our departure for China, I have been working all along on some of the "nuts and bolts" of what needs to be done- making lists, preparing materials for some of the work we will be doing, emailing the missionaries and team members. To be honest, I have not posted much about this at all, simply because I'm not sure what I should post. (I'm a bit nervous about posting about our work specifically, as I don't want to unwittingly post any information that might jeopardize what our missionaries on the ground there are doing.)
Generally speaking, I will be doing some training in the International Fellowship there that our missionaries are part of, as part of their Sunday School program. We will be having a Mexican food party for some teen "MK's" (missionary kids") who are are hard at work for the Lord, and could really use some Rotel dip and tacos! We will be speaking to college students in a university setting, as well as in a coffee house. We will be speaking and ministering in a house church. We will be visiting a Buddhist monastery and prayer walking the area. My daughter and the other teens on the team will be performing some puppet shows in schools. Mostly we will be on the ground and available to do whatever the Holy Spirit directs. It's an exciting time!
But, if I'm honest, it's also (for me) a time when fear and anxiety begins to settle upon me. I've always been a pretty "tightly wound" person, but I have been plagued with fear and worry to an unparalleled degree during our years of short term missions. Things I have never worried about before can become areas of paralyzing fear for me, and even manifest themselves physically. I have recognized this as a ploy of the enemy, and have (by God's grace) been able to press through and go anyway, but nevertheless it remains a battle, from the moment I commit to a trip, throughout my entire time on the field, and even weeks after I return. God has been unspeakably faithful to me and has used this to draw me closer to Himself, further my understanding of Him and strengthen me according to His Word.
Today, I thought I'd post about what I do to prepare for a mission trip spiritually. The weeks leading up to this trip have been incredibly busy for me in every area. Socially, we have had more than our usual amount of obligations. Our ministry work in Awana has been quite time consuming. We have lost a dear friend. We are trying to finish our school work. My son has a birthday 2 days before we leave. Our house is in disarray as we are still working to put it on the market. Busy, busy, busy. And, I believe that is no accident. The enemy would love it if I would get totally distracted with the "mechanics" of my life right now and neglect the spiritual preparation needed for this trip. This would leave me completely vulnerable and could render me useless in China. I must guard against that.
This week I'm sharpening "my sword." I have a thinline Bible that I travel with. It's not the Bible I usually use for church or study, but thinner and easier to carry in my backpack. Since it's not the one I always use, I find that I can't easily flip through it and find passages as quickly as I can in my other Bibles. This week, I am having my daily quiet times in my "travel Bible," reacquainting myself with it. How I loved pulling it off of the shelf! It was like seeing a dear friend and travel companion. It's got sand and dirt in the creases- sand from Mexico, dirt from Ghana. Business cards from China (with the cell phone numbers of our missionary friends) fell out as I opened it up. A quote from an African pastor is written on the front page, "The devil sometimes strikes when you are not at work. Let us not become complacent," it says. Good reminder. I have a small heart sticker stuck inside the front cover, a reminder of a devotional I did with the kids on our Ghana team one summer when I gave them all a sticker to remind us that according to 2 Chronicles 16:9, "the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His." He sees my heart, He will strongly support me! What a promise! I must go boldly, clutching that promise.
Inside the back cover of this Bible I have Scripture references written for key Gospel passages. In my jet-lagged state, with the language barrier and the stress of being in another culture, sometimes it's hard to recall when I'm sharing with someone. I have found it a big help to have them written down and the scriptures highlighted. I also have the Roman Road scriptures listed in order on the first page of Romans with the corresponding verses highlighted. I have been reading back through these key passages and preaching the gospel to myself (which I wrote about here). Not only is this solidifying the Gospel in my heart and mind, it is causing me to operate in His power. The Gospel is power! What a covering!
Something else I have been doing, is praying through my 31 Days of Praise and 31 Days of Power books and highlighting Scriptures pertaining to God's attributes... His absolute goodness, sovereignty, love... There are moments of intense oppression on airplanes, layovers, late nights in my hotel room, and walking through heavily oppressed areas where I need those scriptures at my fingertips. Again, in the stress of the moment I might not be able to find these passages, but locating and marking some of them ahead of time and reading and meditating on them before I go is an immeasurable help. And this week I have been finding Scriptures I've marked and prayed through, that have been a lifeline for me in the past. God is using them to remind me of His past sufficiency and the promise of it in the days and weeks to come. He is so, so good.
So, this is a little of what I've been up to in my preparations. To those of you who are praying for us... thank you. I have tears in my eyes just now thinking about it. You have no idea what a lifeline those prayers are to me. No idea. Thank you, thank you. May the blessing return to you a hundred fold.
Update: I just realized I didn't include something I added to my travel Bible, something I find SO helpful: a list of the "attributes of God" taped inside the back cover.