By Meredith Schellin
My entire body tensed as we pulled into the apartment complex. I tried my best to conceal my discomfort as my dad and I approach the open doorway where other members of my church were already busy working. Entering the apartment, I was immediately told to put my hair up to avoid getting any of the lice or bedbugs that infested the home. I stood in the space filled with piles of clothes and trash and looked around me at people working, seemingly unfazed at the bugs, the dirt, and the obvious problems this family was dealing with. I was the only one that seemed uncomfortable. That bothered me.
I wasn’t bothered a few weeks earlier when I worked with orphans in Indonesia, or past summers when I helped those in need on other mission trips overseas. So why was I so uncomfortable—so out of my comfort zone— helping a family that lived across the street from where I worked three times a week?
As the day went on, I got to know the family, especially the four children, and hear their painful story. But it didn’t diminish the fact that I was still uncomfortable, broken and actually a little bit angry at the situation this family was in. I was doing the same things I had done on every mission trip, only this time it was in my town, down the street from where I lived.
But that’s when I realized that was why I was uncomfortable. It wasn’t that I was serving. It wasn’t that I was reaching out or doing a good deed or getting my hands dirty. It was that I had been naïve, much more than I would like to admit, to the issues my community at home was dealing with.
I have been so quick over my adolescent and young adult years to raise money for overseas mission trips, which I have loved. They are wonderful opportunities for individuals to grow spiritually and further the kingdom of God. I am a huge advocate of those opportunities, of missionaries who are burdened for other nations. However, like many other Christians, I have missed the mark when it comes to domestic missions.
We might go to Africa for the summer, Bolivia for six weeks or China to do our student teaching, but most of us will spend most of our lives here living comfortably in the United States and we forget that there are people around us everyday that not only need Jesus, but also need a helping hand.
Why are we so quick to raise thousands of dollars to go overseas, but we can’t bring canned food in for a food drive, or spend a Saturday helping serve food at a homeless shelter? Why is that we don’t think twice about stopping to help those in need when we are on our mission trips, but we can’t look the man holding the sign on the side of the road in the eye?
I understand things are different here. I understand unfortunately people are not always honest, nor do they always use the money they receive to get the type of help they need. However, I do think it’s time to reevaluate the way we look at missions, the way we share the love of Jesus, and the way we care for those in need. You don’t need to go to Africa to make a difference. You can make a difference in your backyard, and I think it’s time that we start doing so.