Friday, February 19, 2010

Mission: Impossible?

Good morning dear reader,

Injustice has spread throughout the world. The hungry find no food, the thirsty find nothing to drink, the strangers find no welcome, the naked find no clothes, the sick find no care, and the prisoners find no one to visit them. The least of God's children have received ignorance in their struggles.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Bring justice to God's creation. Give food to the hungry, give something to drink to the thirsty, welcome in the stranger, give clothing to the naked, take care of the sick, and visit the prisoners. Remember the least of these and join in their struggles.

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Nearly two thousand years have passed since Jesus gave this assignment (see Matthew 25:31-46). Since then, the movement founded in his name has become the world's most dominant religion. More people in every part of the globe follow Jesus and seek his guidance than at any time in history. Yet as we look around us, we see the great numbers of people still suffering. How can so many people still lack food, potable water, and personal security? As Christians, all called to mission, we wonder how we can really help. Can we make a difference in a world that only seems to fall apart, even after two thousand years of Christian presence? We see an overwhelming task before us. The mission truly feels impossible.

When I chose to accept my mission to El Salvador, I chose to join the Impossible Missions Force. Fortunately, several mission trips from the Evangelical Lutheran Church have joined me in my quest. They have heard Christ's call and traveled to El Salvador to walk in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the Salvadoran Lutheran Church.

One group came from a church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on a scouting mission. They sought ways they can contribute to the construction of a bridge in Usulután.

The community of Santa María built this bridge
to better connect the community.

The original project fell short.

The group, along with Engineers Without Borders,
look for ways to complete the project.

Another group came from two congregations in Northern Minnesota to build a house and a retaining wall for a community that received damages in the November floods.

The new house should resist damages from future floods.

The partners work together to move the blocks up to the site.

The more experienced workers build the walls.

The community and the mission group stand proud of their work.

The group also purchased materials to build a retaining wall
that will protect this threatened house.

A very large group came from all over Minnesota and Wisconsin on a medical mission, providing basic care and medicines to hundreds who normally lack access.

Check out my fellow missionaries' blog for more information. (I was so busy translating that I forgot to take photos.)

All the groups came with a desire to serve the least of God's children, but they also found their own needs met.

The preference to serve the poor and the outcasts lies at the heart of liberation theology, which has long found its fertile ground in Central America. El Salvador alone has given us such theologians as Rutilio Grande, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Ignacio Ellacuría, and Jon Sobrino. The bishop of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church, Medardo Gómez, has also written many books on theology, on what he calls the theology of life. He follows liberation theology, but changes how we see "the least of these". Rather than focus on liberating the poor, we ought to focus on liberating those in deepest need. This change in terminology opens the door to include each of us. We all have deep needs, whether they be financial, physical, emotional, or spiritual.

In the groups that visited us, many needed to see the abundant hope found in the most difficult areas. Many needed to understand their own place in the harsh realities of the world. Many needed to experience the importance of the mission, to bring back those experiences to their homes with a renewed force. They saw the power of Christ's command bringing justice to the least of God's children.

Though Christians have been challenged with an overwhelming assignment, we can always reach out to those in deepest need, wherever we find them. We might not know if if the mission is possible, but we can certainly choose to accept it.

How do you handle the seemingly impossible mission?

Who would you consider to be the least of God's children?

How can you reach out to the least of these?

As we enter the season of lent, we focus on Jesus' forty days of trials in the desert, found in Luke 4:1-13. In what ways has the tempter kept you from following your mission assignment?

How can you stay focused on the task?