At this time of the year, we see lots of people in their brown missions shirts at Nativity, many serving here in our city of Baltimore. Others go further afield. Their send-off Mass a few weeks ago offered an impressive sight: nearly 100 missionaries serving in Haiti, Kenya, and West Virginia.
Relief work is sometimes a necessary first step, but then it’s all about raising up and empowering leaders to become self-sustainable. Charity that just gives without strategy or intention can turn toxic, building dependency and entitlement instead of capacity. We don’t go on mission to “save” anyone, or even to “help them” in any kind of patronizing or condescending way. We look for partners who are already doing good things in their communities and join them. Undertaken in this spirit missions will lead to healthy, long-term relationships in your mission field while making a great impact back home.
Here are 3 reasons why:
- Missions Are Evangelizing.
We often get unchurched people to sign up for mission trips because they have heard about us by word of mouth and find our approach convincing. It can be an easier first step than an RCIA class. And very often faith is rediscovered in the process.
- Missions Form Disciples.
Our missionaries go through a preparation process that includes many spiritual elements. They experience unique bonding and fellowship with the rest of the group, enjoy discussion and reflection on their faith, and are sometimes exposed to a very profound faith in the communities they serve. We hear many times that a missions trip has encouraged people to join a small group, intensify their prayer life or rediscover the Sacraments.
- Everybody Can Get Involved.
Mission has been an integral part of the Church since the beginning. But it often became the vocation of life long missionaries. Today, modern transportation and communication make it possible for nearly everyone. Our goal is to make our mission trips accessible: clearly defined goals, a reasonable time and expense commitment, plenty of preparation, and lots of support, before, during and after the trips, thanks to our home teams.
Charles Spurgeon once noted “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.” Everybody can play a part in missions, and if you create a purpose driven and accessible culture, your parish will grow in numbers and in faith.