Sometimes doing the most practical things can speak the loudest to the people we are around. Within the past 3 weeks, we have helped host 3 separate mission teams, all with separate focuses, giftings and talents. We did a small group of veterinarians who hosted a free pet clinic, a larger group of high schoolers whose focus was on social outreach, and another large group of high school/college kids who built a house for a less fortunate family.
Sometimes, we as christians can feel like we aren’t doing anything worthwhile if we aren’t on street corners preaching or doing some direct form of “traditional ministry.” When a group comes down and builds a house, it is easy to feel like you just did something big for God. This past month, we watched God reform our outlook on what “effective ministry” looks like.
It started with the vet clinic. Truth be told, at first I thought doing an outreach where the focus is on people’s PETS and not the people themselves was stupid and a waste of ministry resources. I questioned why we were doing this and wondered if there wasn’t something more worthwhile we could do instead. God quickly challenged me on this in the staff meeting before the group’s first day. As we were praying over the day, I heard God quietly whisper a single word. “Practicality,” He said. Within that one simple word, God showed me how sometimes the most practical form of ministry can be the most impactful. People’s pets are considered part of the family in most households. I have even heard of certain family’s dogs getting expensive operations just to keep the furry member of the family around longer
We watched the first day as 83 animals with their owners made their way through the building we held the clinic (there were close to 60 animals the second and final day). To my surprise, we only recognized 15-20 of the pet owners who came. God was using the clinic to reach people of the community that we have NEVER had relationships with! This is practicality in action. Use something simple to bless people. When they wonder why veterinarian doctors come down from the States to spay, neuter, and vaccinate foreign animals for free, then they start to understand the love of God. As a result of this group using a gifting and passion they already possessed, God developed new and meaningful relationships with people and the local church! People got to see Jesus in a practical way!
We were leading the 2nd mission group (the social outreach high school kids) and we decided to do something we never did before, pick up garbage. About 3 blocks away from the mission team house there is an old coffee field that has been abandoned by farmers and reclaimed by garbage, crack heads, and drug addicts. The field is FILLED to the brim with garbage, random car parts, and old furniture. We asked the mayor of Alajuelita if there was a certain area he would like us to hit and he suggested this coffee field.
We spent only a short time cleaning the area (goes a lot faster with 19 people all working together). We bagged all of the loose trash, piled the old furniture and car parts in one area. As we were working, I watched as several cars slowed down to drive by the site.
After they realized what was happening, they honked, gave a thumbs up, and went on their way. A man and a woman approached me at separate times flabbergasted that people would come to a foreign country to pick up other people’s trash. They asked why we would do such a thing and I got to explain how we are missionaries and wanted to show the love of God in a practical way. They explained how they grew up next door to this area and watched as everyone used it as a personal trash heap. Never once in 53 years had someone tried to clean it up. They said that it was a huge blessing and that it meant the world to them.
God has equipped His body with different body parts. Each body part has a different function. Some are great functions, some seem less significant, but all parts and roles are equally important. This month, we watched average christians do things that were within their abilities to do. They did what God had given them the ability to do and, as a result, people were touched. Too many times we look at ourselves and think, “I’m not qualified enough to pastor a mega church,” or “I don’t think I can move to a foreign country to be a missionary.” We need to get out of this mindset and start looking at what God has given us the ability to do! We can serve God with our mechanic abilities, our art talents, our computer know-how, heck, even our clothes ironing abilities!! We should start asking God how He can use us the way He made us. He made us the way we are for a reason. We should trust that He knows what He is doing! I truly believe that when we start using our talents in practical ways, we will see God in ways we may not have ever expected!