A week ago I sat teary-eyed on a couch explaining to my bible study group about my invitation to travel to Myanmar (formerly Burma) with two staff members of She is Safe. My tears were the result of an inner turmoil that had been churning for days.
I really want to go, but really couldn't see why I should. As I hashed out my struggle to decide, one friend finally asked, "So, should we pray that you WILL go, or that you WON'T?"
My response was, "Yes."
The fear factor really wasn't an issue after the initial shock of the invitation. As I told my friend Katy, I'm pretty much always afraid, so I've learned to mostly charge on in spite of it because I don't want to miss my life.
My reluctance really had more to do with the fact that it is a large chunk of money, and whether it's out of my bank account or the from the generosity of others, it could just go straight to the work of She is Safe and not spent on sending me halfway around the globe. I wasn't sure (and I'm still not sure) what I have to offer that would justify the expense. In fact, when I first spoke with the adorable woman who will be leading the trip, she encouraged me just to be open to using "whatever special skills I might have" while we are in Myanmar. I could not think of a single special skill that might be useful. I'm really nice--which I guess is a skill--?--and I'm great at reading stories aloud to children. Aaaannnnd that's pretty much it.
As I sit and type this now, one short week later, I'm in a completely different place, feeling that as long as God keeps giving His yes in response to my yes, I'm going to Myanmar. And I'm fairly certain that it is what I'm supposed to do.
So what changed? First, I finished the book Helping Without Hurting, which is required reading for the trip. (Everyone should read this book, by the way.) In the book, the authors emphasize that short-term mission trips, to be most effective, need to be in support of long-term, preferably grass-roots efforts run by nationals in the host country. The author told of the vital importance of visitors engaging and encouraging the field workers they meet, even claiming that such interactions provide far more value to the trip than any physical or material help. We westerners (like me) want to hit the road and serve, which too often means doing things that local people could do themselves. We tend to think of going so far just to fellowship as unproductive. So false.
Think about this: in most of the Majority World, Christians are in the minority. In Myanmar less than five percent of the population is Christian. To be able to meet with believers from across the globe and know that they are not alone, but supported in prayer by brothers and sisters whom they have now met face-to-face and shared meals with---think what an encouragement that is. Maybe there IS a need for my "talent" for being nice!
The book was instrumental in changing my perspective, but so were people. My friend Katy and new friend Kristin, who will be my travel partners, have been a huge encouragement just by sharing their experience, wisdom, and confidence. Even though we can all agree that we have very little idea how I will be of service on this trip, they are certain that I will be a valuable member of the team--and God will show us how.
It has also been an amazing week to sit and see God work. Before I even got support letters printed and mailed out, I had received over half of the money for the trip in donations from friends excited to be a part. Given that encouraging sum, the trip leader called me yesterday saying that she felt comfortable going ahead and purchasing my ticket even though I was still a few hundred dollars shy of the full cost. On faith we went ahead with buying tickets. Within minutes of getting the confirmation e-mail about the ticket, I got a notification that I had received a donation that would more than cover the needed cost of the ticket.
That's enough confirmation for me to keep moving forward! If God can make all this happen (because it surely wasn't me), then I guess He'll find a way to use me, too.