You will never forget this experience on “the field” and I doubt that you truly forget the names of the people who touched you the most. But they might feel forgotten. You are miles away in your familiar environment while they are sweating it out in the trenches. It is easy, and natural, to get caught up in everyday life that we temporarily forget about that whole other world we stepped into for a time. Although I think I have improved my “memory” over the years, I have to admit that I am also guilty of “forgetting.”
(Gentle Translation for Proverb:
Don't Forget Why You Came…
Not to Mention, Their Names)
Now that internet access is more accessible in Honduras, I will try to write a big long letter to my friends there explaining what is going on in my life and asking about theirs. I feel pretty good that I take the time to do that (pardon me, while I break my arm patting myself on the back!) But now my friends down there complain that I don’t write. The gall! The last time I was accused of “not writing” I got a little ticked off. I do write! I write big letters! In another language! And in my defense, I only get bi-weekly notes from them simply saying (translated), “Hello. Greetings from your brothers and sisters in the Lord. I hope you are doing well and are happy at the side of your husband. We love you.” Then, there is maybe a sentence about their health, but it is almost the same thing every time. And half the time it takes me a few minutes to sound out their spelling so that I can understand what they were trying to communicate. All that pseudo-boasting to say ...
Okay, first of all, if I take the time to remember who and where I am writing, I will also remember that a good number of my closest friends there live in a small village and have to travel two hours or more to use the Internet, and they do it on a regular basis. Also I should appreciate this brief well-wishing because it can be rather labourious for most some of them to type. Related to that, lots of them in the villages have a third grade education so yes, it is hard to read misspelled words or conversational grammar, but it is also pretty stinkin' HUGE that they spent the 15 minutes it probably took to write one sentence just to say hello to me.
And the biggest thing is that I should remember to write more, if just to say hello or wish them well or to tell them I happen to be healthy that week. It means a lot to them and it’s no skin off my nose. It is one way they will know they are NOT forgotten. I can't believe that in the latest years I have actually found myself thanking my maker for ... wait for it ... Facebook. I took my latest trip to Honduras because of one conversation with a dear, dear friend there.
Another more important way to “remember” is to GO BACK if you absolutely possibly can. It is admirable that some young people wish to have diverse experiences in a variety of countries. It is good for an individual to desire to do missions, but guess what? We, as leaders, aren’t really training you to be missionaries when we don’t encourage you to establish lasting relationships in a particular mission point.
I know of one young lady who did five different mission trips with her youth group. She is a sweet, humble gal who was very embarrassed when a leader held this up as an example for the rest of the youth to follow. But I also know of another young man who went on a mission trip to the Czech Republic from 8th to 12th grade. He has nine friends there who he communicates with on a regular basis. He made a personal commitment that he would keep in touch so that his new friends would expect to see his face when he got off the plane every year. He writes about himself, about the weather, about their school, their families…and their faith.
Three of those nine have come to Christ.
The permanent mission team in Brno watered these new believers and is watering the other six. But this young missionary planted an important seed by deciding it is an important responsibility to keep relationships.
So that is the "one thing" to remember and it is so much more than just their names, but you get that. You know what I really mean when I say, "Don't forget their names!" And you also know in the grand understanding of relationships, that is more than praying for them or thinking about them from time to time. AND, if you absolutely possibly can, go back. Consider this verse from Matthew:
“God’s kingdom is like a pine nut that a farmer plants. It is quite small as seeds go, but in the course of years it grows into a huge pine tree, and eagles build nests in it.”
-Matthew 13:31, The Message
Be a pine nut, my friend, for this is why you came.