Leaving Jesus Out of Missions

Thank You Lord“Social justice is a good place to start, but a poor place to finish. People need to eat. They need to be healthy. We need to show that we care. But a concern for justice is not enough – the poor and the oppressed need the whole gospel. What a privilege to discover Jesus’ gospel of grace! My life would be bankrupt without it. Only that gospel has the power to bring not only justice, but healing.” 
The first day in the field in Haiti, we left behind our boxes of tarps, piles of clothing, and bins overflowing with supplies. The leaders made it clear. Our goal that day wasn’t to help meet people’s physical needs-we were going to need way more than just a week for that. Rather, our intent was to try and meet the eternal needs of the community of Ktadb and bring them the life-giving good news so they would never thirst again.
That was not easy at all for me. In many ways, it was the exact opposite of what I thought I was there to do. I was there to help. I brought stuff. I wanted to make a difference in the fight to relieve suffering and anguish.
Like Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”
“If you want to make a difference,” one of our trip leaders said, “Give them something eternal. Because that’s what they really want. They all want tarps, sure. But they want God even more-they just might not know it yet.”
Looking back at how the rest of the week played out, I know she was right. There were 600 shelters that needed tarps. We had 200 to pass out. There were thousands of mouths to feed, and we only had a truckload of rice. There were people who needed clothing, but we could only carry so much.
The only thing we had to give that didn’t run out was Jesus.
We can work as hard as we can either here in the States or out in the mission field to bring about social justice and to be the “hands and feet of Christ.” But is that really enough?
If I could say it better, I would. But I can’t, so I’ll let Matthew Snyder say it for me:
It’s something that some friends and I discussed a few months ago and the weight and reality of it keeps getting hammered into the ground. My generation, and the Christian communities surrounding us, use Assisi’s words as an excuse to not proclaim Jesus. We don’t want to offend anybody. We don’t want to “turn them off” to the Gospel or something else ridiculous like that.
But how is the kid in Africa you’re feeding going to know that you’re feeding him for the glory of Christ if you NEVER tell him about the love that drives you?…
So what do you proclaim with your life? Is it merely deeds or are you sharing the message of Christ’s love and grace with a hurting world? I’d like to say I’m doing both, but sometimes… I don’t. I’d rather hand someone a sandwich and walk away because it’s a lot easier than telling them about Jesus.
But the truth is: I’m still leaving them hungry.