“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew25:34-40)
This past week was a blessing and a reminder to us of what Jesus was talking about in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. I am so proud of the mission team that went to Poplar Bluff, Missouri last week to do the work that Jesus calls us to do. Our team included: Don Cole, Scott Mitchell, Alan and Janet Parker, Katherine Reeves, Glenna and Mike Stockard, Jami and Kent Warkentin, and myself. Many of you heard our testimony in worship yesterday morning. Today I want to share some of the lessons I learned during this trip and how I believe our church can be transformed.
I think it is significant that our destination was unknown until very late in the planning process. Our intention was to go to Joplin, Missouri and help with the ongoing disaster relief there. Poplar Bluff was never on our radar. I don’t think any of us even knew that there had been a disaster there. We were thinking of how easy it would be to drive only a couple of hours away from home to be in mission. As the date for our departure drew closer, however, Jami learned that the Joplin mission was going to be very crowded and we might not be needed there. Her contact person suggested that we consider the small community of Poplar Bluff where a major flood hit a year and a half ago. This trip meant driving six and a half hours, but we all felt that was where we were needed most and we were right. I have to believe that it was God who made our decision for us. The work we did and the people we met proved to us over and over that we were meant to be in Poplar Bluff at this particular time to do ministry in the name of Jesus Christ.
I listened as one of our homeowners described their journey that brought them to this point and I knew that Jesus wanted me to hear her story. When she finished, tears in her eyes, I could only hug her and pray with her. I knew then we were where we were supposed to be. Our team made a huge difference in this family’s life by completing repairs that had been underway for months. We were able to give them back a sense of “normal” for the first time in 18 months.
We never got the chance to meet our other homeowner, but we heard his story and knew that we could help. We were able to get his home to a point where a small crew from our host church can now come in and finish the details in about a week and enable this man to finally return home.
I know that it is hard to imagine the impact of a mission trip if you are not there, but I hope you will trust us when we say how much we have been blessed by the work. Yes, we are exhausted, but we had fun. As Janet said yesterday morning, the work we do in Jesus’ name is so much better than any work done simply for compensation. Our whole church is better because of the mission trips this year by our youth and adults. Let us resolve to do more of these next year and continue to be on the side of the sheep when The King comes.