Yesterday I returned home after spending a week in Guatemala with the various mission teams sent by my church in Austin, Texas.
I had the unique privilege to move from team to team over the course of the week, staying in different parts of Guatemala, and seeing how all of our mission teams work together to create unique, sustained partnerships with ministries and organizations within Guatemala.
And it also happened to be the first foreign mission trip for my son Jackson.
I will be forever grateful to the adult leaders of his mission site (an orphanage where some 70-80 children live) for all they did to care for and encourage him while I was moving from site to site.
The trip had a profound effect on him---I can tell he's still trying to figure out how he feels now that he's back home.
One of the adults on the trip told me that bed Jackson had selected for the week was pretty terrible. At one point, they told him he needed to move to one of the empty bunk beds, which was more comfortable. Jackson declined, and went on to say that many of the the children in the orphanage had to sleep on far worse.
Bear in mind, this is also the same kid who complained last night about having to walk the dog last night because he couldn't wait to play video games---so there's work yet to be done.
But still... He'll never forget his experience, and neither will I.
Being in community with people who love to do life, mission and ministry together... A family of faith where Jesus is the center and the kingdom of God is proclaimed... This is what the Church is truly all about.
And it's one of the many reasons I continue to labor and serve within the Church. God has not given up on the Church (in spite of her many problems), and neither have I.
Philosopher and theologian Peter Rollins told this story recently:
A woman visiting Ireland was trying to reach Tipperary and got lost. She asked an old man for directions, and he told her to take out a pen and paper to write them down. "First of all," he told her, "I wouldn't start here."
Where we begin our journeys in life truly matters. If you don't have a community of faith--find one. You need it. We all do. It matters to have a good place to start when we launch out into the world.
And it matters to know that place is there when you return.