My family and I recently returned from a nine day missions trip to Jamaica. While we have been a part of several missions teams over the years this was our first trip out of the country. What we saw there was truly eye opening and life changing: poverty the likes of which we had never seen, blind and lame beggars in the streets and a society – other than small pockets – devoid of any real sense of family structure.
The need there is so great and our time there was so short it was easy to find ourselves asking, “Am I really making a difference?” But, because we trust that God provided the way for us to be there the answer of course was “yes.”
Sometimes it is hard to see, often I believe that is because we are seeing through eyes limited by the here and now, eyes that cannot see the ripples that follow once we disappear beneath the surface of the waters into which we have been cast. It is in times such as these when we can not see the trees for the forrest, when we focus so much on the whole of the need rather than looking for the individuals God has placed in our path. Once that adjustment of perspective had been made, I believe we could clearly see many things we were accomplishing, coming along side the missionaries on the ground there providing them with the support of finance, fellowship and labor. Spending time with a few people trying to encouraging them through words and more importantly through example. And in a broad sense hopefully encouraging the people there by giving them an example of how it is possible to be a family, not only as we labored along side them but also as the kids and I shared our music during at our concerts and during the worship services.
While we were there, my thoughts often turned to the people back home who helped us, people from our amazing church family who helped coordinate and actively participated in fund-raisers. Strangers and friends alike to came to plays, concerts and supported other various fund raisers, my brother and sister-in-law who drove us to and from the airport. So many people making it possible for us to go. But my thoughts also turned to one man who during one of our fund-raisers informed us that while he was buying something he was “…not in favor of foreign missions because the need is so great here.” I thought about that man a lot during our trip, and though I understand the perspective from which he was speaking, while in Jamaica I was struck with the reality that as followers of Christ what land have we ever been in which wasn’t foreign?
I believe this was the perspective from which the Apostle Paul wrote when in Ephesians chapter six he referred to himself as an “ambassador.” “…and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:19-20 (emphasis added).
An ambassador by definition is :
1: an official envoy; especially : a diplomatic agent of the highest rank accredited to a foreign government or sovereign as the resident representative of his or her own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment
2: an authorized representative or messenger
– Merriam Webster online dictionary.
To paraphrase an ambassador is an authorized representative in a foreign land.
While in Jamaica this became so clear to me, not only the realization that we were in a different part of the world, but that if we are followers of Christ, He has called us all to a “foreign mission” even if those we serve are right next door.