My son participated in his first mission project when he was two months old. Our church at that time had a summer program of delivering lunches to children in need. Church members and community folks spent all summer packing sack lunches and driving all over the county. One day in late July, there was a need for a driver to deliver lunches.
I whispered to my infant son, “Now is as good a time as any to learn, buddy. In this family, this is what we do.”
I loaded him up in the carseat, warned the deacon in the passenger seat that I had no idea how many times we would need to stop. She smiled and said “Let’s roll.” A little commotion from a baby didn’t scare her.
Yesterday, my family got to serve together again. Our church hosted a mission project day called “Hand in Hand.” Our focus this time was caring for children in foster care in our city.
The youngest person was 15 months old and the oldest person was ninety-two years old. Generations ate lunch and worked together. Around the tables were people who would have baffled any political poll. Correlational analysis would struggle to make connections between the views of the mother with three young children, the college professor, the artist, and the retired judge.
We split into groups for five different small projects so that we worked with people who were not in our household. Toddlers and empty-nesters filled brown paper sacks with food for children. Teenagers and gray-haired businessmen tied knots to make blankets. A grandson explained to his grandmother what a hashtag is. A sixteen year-old girl instructed her dignified deacons how to pour glitter into water bottles.
We packed, tied, cut, colored, filled, and carried. We shared, ate, listened, helped and worked. We spent the afternoon connected by one aim: to be the hands of Christ in our city.
This is what I mean when I use the word missions. That word has meant many things in my life in the Church. For me, missions is more about actions that bring wholeness and the peace of Christ into the world. Our missions committee recently tried to define missions in a few words. What we came up with is a decent start:
“You be Jesus to others.”
“Faithful work, for God, through Church.”
“Through church” is the part that stirred my soul yesterday. Through church meant through the small, sticky hands of preschoolers and the well-manicured hands of adults. If we were to try to identify these people by easy labels – income, political views, education – we could have split up, scattered to different corners of the fellowship hall and stayed put. But we found ourselves joined together in work yesterday.
We found ourselves tying knots and filling buckets. We found ourselves identified by the only thing that truly matters in this family: we are followers of Christ. We each had something to offer.
John Wesley’s prayer was our blessing yesterday. It is my prayer this week:
“I want the whole Christ for my Savior, the whole Bible for my book, the whole Church for my fellowship, and the whole world for my mission field.”
I was reminded of what happens when all generations are invited to serve together: we get closer to a whole Church. I can’t wait for the next Hand in Hand project day.
I can’t wait for the next time the whole church can help me tell my boy, “Now is as good a time as any to learn. In this family, this is what we do.”