When I signed up for a recent medical mission trip with Cru, one of the things I wanted to do was to show God’s love to the people there.
The schedule was packed, and opportunities were rife. Partnering with a local church, PCF, we were supposed to minister at North Cemetery, Correctional Institute for Women (CIW), Aeta tribe and more.
Our role was to mainly provide both medical aid in terms of clinics, as well as reaching the people through songs, testimonies, and skits.
Little did I know how I actually did not really understand what “showing God’s love” meant.
Is this love?
Have you ever relied on your own human love and compassion in situations?
I definitely did on this mission trip and soon discovered how limited it was.
On our very first day, as silly as it sounds, what filled my mind was a fear of the stray dogs around me. So much so that I ended up hardly talking to the children.
Many times, I would also use fatigue as a legit excuse not reach out and talk and play with the kids.
Elizabeth (L) looks on as Dr Don Cua provides free medical consultation services to at-risk communities
It wasn’t until we visited a girls’ home everything changed.
During the visit, we were given a lot of time to play and interact with the girls. They were really friendly and played happily with all my team members—except me.
Somehow, there was just no one who really wanted to play with me, no matter how hard I tried.
Feeling insecure, I started looking for girls to sit and talk with, to make it look like the girls also liked me.
After we left the girls’ home, I realised how impure my intentions were!
At that moment of realisation, I repented and submitted to God once again, asking Him to fill me with His love.
Reaching out through skits and games to the children.
On the second last day at Matutum, a squatter area in Manila, as I learnt of the struggles the children faced in their neighborhood, God simply filled me with compassion for them.
Out of my mouth came forth encouragement, telling them of the safety, peace and comfort they can find in God!
I realised that it was only when I thought less about myself, focused on Jesus’ love and others, true love flowed.
Compassion: a universal language
Matutum was no heaven. The living conditions were poor, with steel-plated houses cramped into small alleys and rubbish and personal belongings cluttering the small walkway.
Our team’s task was to walk through the neighbourhood and pray for people along the journey.
On a prayer walk through the squatters.
A little girl, around four to five years old, held my hand and followed me.
When we stopped to pray for an old lady, she suddenly pulled me slightly backwards and pointed upwards.
She was preventing me from getting splashed by water dripping from the roof!
Her small act of kindness really touched and shocked me. The way she loved me and looked out for me despite her own needs, and even at her young age, reminded me of how Jesus has called us to love others – with a self-sacrificial kind of love.
Here was I, mostly preoccupied with taking care of myself, but a girl whom I thought I was sent to love, had even greater capacity to reciprocate love.
How to truly love in missions?
Many times, in missions, we think it’s about us heading overseas to show love in a myriad of ways: humanitarian aid, emotional support, spiritual care etc..
It’s still self-centred love—which has limits.
Our team of medical students from NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. [Second row (L-R): Aaron, Nicholas, Judith, Eleanor, Charlotte, Elizabeth; First row (L-R): Shaun, Klara, Shi Jed
Not in picture: Rae-Ann, Emma, Joyce, Uno]
True selfless gospel-centred love starts by us realising we’re all part of humanity: steeped in both sin and immense potential to love.
Only then can we truly love: with listening, understanding and respect.
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