Today I am in the final stages of preparing to be in Bosnia for two weeks. What an exciting adventure to partner with seven others from EHA to be on the ground in Sarajevo!
On this final day before stepping on board a plane, I thought I’d take a few moments and respond to a question I often hear about this kind of trip. People will ask me, “Why spend all that time and money to go? Why not just send the money to those who are already there?” A valid question! Two questions, actually! As this trip marchs closer and closer, I find my response to those questions growing ever clearer.
First, we go to build relationships and encourage our friends! It is a fallacy to believe that sending enough money anywhere will result in true change. Sure, money is necessary and workers cannot be sent without our support, but all too often we slip into the mindset that sending money is all God wants of us. Taking a trip like this gives our team the real opportunity to see people face to face. We get to shake hands, give hugs, share meals, laugh, cry and pray with them. As we do this with our friends in Bosnia- whether international workers, pastors or locals- God is at work. The gospel advances over relational bridges that get built one piece at a time.
Second, we go to pray on site. I don’t pretend to know all of the ins and outs of prayer. I am not certain whether some prayers matter more than others or not. But I have found in my experience that praying WITH someone is better than only praying for them. Praying at the site is somehow more significant than praying from far away. Please don’t get me wrong- I believe that prayers of any kind from any distance can be effective and powerful. But when we have the chance to see with our eyes and touch with our hands, in some way the Presence of God is given more freedom to work, move and change lives.
Third, we go to be connected. One of the amazing things for me to watch has been how this trip has naturally connected us to Bosnia and the team in Sarajevo. Because we are going, we have talked more in church about Bosnia. Because we are going, we have prayed more at our gatherings. And I have found that I am personally praying far more than I would have had we not been going. Knowing that we will be there in person has helped us “be there” already in our hearts and spirits.
Fourth, we go for the change that will occur in us. Too often, we tend to wonder what good we can do for a country or a city in two weeks. The better question is how much a country or a city can do in us! I know for a fact that our team will be profoundly impacted by what we see and experience. We will be drawn to prayer in new ways. Our eyes will be more open to spiritual realities. We will have better clarity to look at our way of life and question what is crucial and what is not. For this reason alone, I will take as many people as I can on overseas trips!
Finally, we go in order to build our church for the future. As we continue this partnership with Bosnia, I am certain that our vision for the world is growing within the church. Our horizons are being expanded, and people are being challenged to take steps of faith like never before. When we go, we send a message to our entire faith community about the nature of following Christ. We become a sending church. A going church. A praying church. Will this single trip leave a lasting mark in Bosnia? I hope so. But will it create lasting change in our gathering? I am certain of it.
In light of all this, I wonder aloud: How could we not go?