Once there were two short-term missionaries who went out doing mission projects. The leader of the local church would not welcome them, told his church members not to offer them hospitality. A global church leader, who supported the short-termers, wrote the local leader personally, pleading for his cooperation, but to no avail.
One man in that local church decided to support the short-term missionaries anyway. His name was Gaius. The unwelcoming leader was Diotrophes. And the church leader who sent the missionaries was the Apostle John. You can read all about it in his Third Epistle (III John).
Why didn’t Diotrophes welcome the short-term missionaries? Perhaps he did not “believe in short-term missions”; that it is uneconomical to send people off for a short-term trip.
The Apostle John begged to differ. John knew what Jesus had said about being a witness to the uttermost part of the earth. And he remembered what Jesus did: traveling from town to town. John knew that Jesus was a short-term missionary whose formal ministry on earth was but a few years. And that our ministry on this earth, no matter how long it feels to us, is in God’s eyes, incredibly short-term, although it cost Him the cross.
Short-term missionaries do not have weeks or months to adjust to a new place; we have to hit the ground running. We know the fatigue of jet lag; of 24-hour flights. We know the challenges of not being known in the place that we go, of having to leave just when we have finally figured out how to get around.
And we have experienced the influence of Diotrophes on occasion. Some object on the grounds that we’re taking a “paid vacation” while others object on the grounds of insanity for going to unsettled places like Afghanistan or Nepal. But in going we have glimpsed why God sends people short-term:
Fresh faces without politics and baggage that inevitably accrue in a community. New energy. The courage that comes from not having to care what people think of what we say. The ability to generate fresh contacts for those who stay longer term.
The ultimate reason we go on short-term missions is simple: we sense God calls us to go, and so we go. When He gives us the green light to stay home we organize volunteers for community service who participate in service projects in Phoenix and beyond- we will not miss the travails of intercontinental travel.
What does a family do on Thanksgiving?
Early when the children were very young, Thanksgiving morning found us at Cortez Park running the Trinity Bible Church annual ‘turkey trot’. Oh, the excitement- who would win the coveted tennis shoe sprayed a sparkly gold.
One year, at age 10, Wally, jr won the turkey trot. [truth be told probably several other adult friends might have allowed him to sprint ahead…maybe, who knows?]
Later in the day, our family would serve homeless families a Thanksgiving meal. [children under 18 not allowed; however, we disobeyed the rules bringing our crew as they grew to 18].
One Thanksgiving, Wallace was a team leader for a section of the tables, so I dropped him off at the entrance and drove with the kids through to the designated parking lot. When I walked up with all 6 kids in tow to the volunteer entrance, I was directed to the line with the homeless families. Wallace had to be called over to verify that I was eligible to walk into the volunteer section.
A worn-out looking mother I must have been!
When the college children returned home for Thanksgiving, the youngest in the family would be the designated ‘turkey’ for the greet at the airport.
Although the turkey tradition faded into memory and the turkey costume has been handed down to another generation in the family, the Thanksgiving Day volunteering tradition continues strong and stable.
How should we begin, continue traditions on Thanksgiving Day as families?
What does the Lord require of us in demonstrating our thankfulness?
Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, you will be deceiving yourselves. James 1:22
If I have eaten my morsel alone, not sharing it with the fatherless. Job 31:17
For it is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before God, but it is the doers of the Law who will be declared righteous. Romans 2:13
The Lord requires we put our thankfulness into action.
One of my favorite Presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, expressed the sentiment so well with
“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and Thankfulness shows itself in deeds.”.