In the midst of an discussion about how much scholarship money we'd need to provide for people in our church who want to take short-term mission trips to places like Malawi, one of the more thoughtful members of our church sent me this letter. Jon Moran is a US Marine and grew up as a missionary kid in Zambia. His wife Sheryl went with me to Malawi and serves as our church representative on the Y-Malawi Steering Committee. I asked for permission to reprint his post here as food for thought on "sin's crushing blow" both at home and in places like Africa.
I’ve come to believe that God created the world to be a bountiful provider of all of our needs; that material and social inequalities exist (class structures, monstrous differences in salaries, opportunities, and options, etc.) as a result of sin; and that God directed occasional redistribution of material and real estate that would be seen as good news to the poor—and be a source of restoring dignity and relationships within the community.
The Team’s report from Malawi indicated that sin’s crushing blow to that country was in the form of poverty and disease. Over generations, Malawian communities you visited have sought God’s grace through worship in spirit and in truth.
God has given them a joy that seemed to be the defining observation of every team member. God’s grace has given them the freedom to live beyond the crushing power of poverty and disease so that materials and sickness no longer control their lives—reliance on God’s grace does. God has now given us the opportunity to be a part of His hand of continued grace to Malawi—and the Malawians have given us a glimpse of their joy in Christ, and we have an opportunity to partake in that joy through relationship and involvement.
Additionally, we have a need to address one of sin’s crushing blows to US—too many options, overwhelming abundance, and a wealth that all to often blinds us to the difference between needs and wants. We are only just beginning to seek God’s grace through worship in spirit and in truth in the face of this abundance. We are only just beginning to experience the joy that freedom from the oppression of having more than we need can bring...
Potentially, I suppose, more people may consider participation on a short term mission trip if healthy "scholarships" are provided—but perhaps we also risk minimizing the potential for members of our congregation to grapple with the crippling effect of sin in our country and of its impact on our choices, attitudes, perceptions and actions.
I believe that God desires to fill us with the type of joy that the Y-Malawi team reported as being evident in the lives of the Malawi communities they visited. I don’t know the path to that joy, there may be more than one, but it seems to me that it would involve seeking God’s direction to undo the power of sin in our lives—and that usually means some hard choices. Choices that might actually involve me giving up one of the things I "need" in life to "afford" to take a trip so that God can show me something I really do need in order to be a healthy part of His Body.
Maybe facing the fact that I can’t go it alone, pay for it out of my own pocket, but need to seek the support and prayers of others—maybe this will also be part of realizing that God wants me to go, or maybe does not want me to go but wants me to support or pray for someone else this time. If making a sacrificial excursion to another country is no more costly than an extended senior trip (which no one really considers NOT going on), but we can’t see a trip to Malawi as a crucial part of the Sojourn that God has called each of us to make (or we simply see a few representatives making the trip for us)—perhaps this highlights the extent of sin’s oppressive hold on us.
Just as you could discern the difference between communities in Malawi that had turned to God to allow Him to deal with the crushing blow of sin in their lives and those communities that had not (Sheryl has related some experiences with people in the cities and marketplaces that were in opposition to your experiences in the rural communities), so I’m sure that visitors to our country can discern whether or not we as individuals and as a community have turned to God to allow Him to deal with the pervading effects of sin in our lives. I’d like to be a part of the community that is a witness to God’s power in our midst--if for no other reason than it will help me deal with the brokenness in my own life.
Semper Fi, Jon G. Moran