Why go to Cambodia?

A couple weeks ago Elizabeth’s world history teacher began a new section on Asia and one day began talking about Cambodia — “one of the poorest countries in the world — a place you probably wouldn’t want to go on vacation.”

A hand went up.

“Yes, Elizabeth.”

“I’m going to Cambodia in two weeks!”

“Why????”  Why indeed.

Why go to Cambodia?  Why spend so much money and why spend so much time to go so far for such a short duration?  Why take your 15-year-old daughter with you to Cambodia?  Why put yourself and her in a position of danger?  What if you — or she — are hurt? endangered? or even die???  To that, I really have one answer, but from two different perspectives.

As a member and pastor of a church body, my function is to cultivate a yearning and passion for and a commitment to missions and evangelism.  The most significant thing a church does is missions and training people to do missions (I include both local evangelism and cross-cultural missions in that statement).  That’s a significant statement.  But I say that missions is the most significant part of a church’s ministry because everything else a church does, it will do better in heaven.  Worship will be better in heaven (bigger orchestras and no pastors singing off-key!).  Instruction will be better in heaven, with the Lord Himself as our primary teacher and with our hearts equipped to hear and respond perfectly to the truth.  Ministry to one another through encouragement and exhortation will be better since our sin natures will be removed, meaning our needs and motives and responses will never be tainted.  And the one thing that we will be completely unable to do in heaven is missions, meaning that the most significant thing that we do on earth is missions, and equipping others to do missions.

And I can think of no better way to infuse people with a desire for missions than to take them on mission trips.

My second answer is that as a Dad, my responsibility is to train my children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).  My task is to teach them submission to the authority of the Lord and love for the Word of the Lord.  And on a mission trip, where they can not only watch me be involved in the lives of others, but they can also see the need for other people in other places to know the cleansing power of the cross of Christ, they will learn a love for God’s Word and His purposes in ways that cannot be replicated here.

In a very unique way, a mission trip enables one to learn the value of sacrificial living.  A mission trip confronts us with our sinful tendency to live only for ourselves and equips us to embrace the value of sacrificial living for others.  In other words, as a pastor or a church member or a dad or a daughter, we want to be involved in serving Christ so that others will be more effectively trained in the Word of God or so they will come to know Christ.  And missions and evangelism cultivates that like few other ministry opportunities.  And that makes these kinds of trips infinitely worthwhile.  Even if the cost is high and the distance is far.  And even if our health and lives are endangered.

As I have thought about these things this week, I have also listened to two sermons by John Piper that have profoundly impacted me (in fact, I am listening to one of them for a second time already).  Both these messages are on missions.  In one of them (“Proclaiming the Excellencies of Christ, Not Prosperity, Among the Nations”), he says this (the links to both sermons are in this morning’s sermon notes; I encourage you to listen to them both):

At the heart of true biblical missions is the willingness to die to the cravings that prosperity preachers exploit. At the heart of true biblical missions (both for the goers and the senders) is an eagerness to live simply and give lavishly. At the heart of true biblical missions is suffering, not merely as a result of proclamation, but also as a means of proclamation—a means of making the saving sufferings of Christ known to the world. As Joseph Tson says, “Christ’s sufferings are for propitiation; our sufferings are for propagation.”

So why go to one of the poorest countries in the world in service of Christ?  Because sacrifice and suffering is good for my own walk of dependence on Christ, and sacrifice in service for the cause of missions is the best thing a church body can do; and sacrificial service is good for me as a dad and good for my family.

While we are gone, here then are some things you can pray about for us:

Terry —

  • Pray for wisdom to maximize my time and energy in serving Jack and Susie and the Cambodian church.
  • Pray that what I teach and preach and do will be a ministry to the Cambodians.
  • Pray for my own heart to be refreshed, encouraged, and strengthened as I serve.
  • Pray that my passion and zeal for missions and evangelism would be enflamed.
  • Pray for wisdom to know how we (GBC) can be of greater long-term help to Pathway to Hope and the Cambodian church.
  • Pray for God to be gracious to us in our travel and for us to be content and at peace with whatever unique circumstances arise.
  • Pray for Raye Jeanne and Emily to be comforted, encouraged, and cared for while we are away.
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment to disciple Elizabeth spiritually both while away and after returning.

Elizabeth —

  • Pray that I would be receptive to a variety of spiritual lessons that God will teach me while we are there.
  • Pray that God would use this to open my eyes and make me more compassionate to the needs of people around the world.
  • Pray for safety as we travel so far from home.

Thank you for the grace of providing the time for me to be gone on this trip, and thank you for the sustaining grace of your prayers on our behalf.

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