Recently I received an article from a friend. It contained some pictures of place I had been when on a trip to Syria some years ago. The images were before and after shots showing the devastation that had taken place during the conflict there. My heart broke for the people who had lived their lives in these neighborhoods.
Never have I been somewhere that has later been destroyed. My feet had walked the streets that now lay in ruins. I had once bartered with merchants whose shops are now bombed out and empty. I had eaten in these now tumbled down restaurants that were once full of people who were enjoying their evening meals. It had been a safe, peaceful and secure place when I visited.
My prayers go out to this community. It is natural to feel sad for what has happened in their land, but it was more than that for me. I drank tea with these people and listened to their stories. I was invited into their homes and shared in their family life. That is what sets traveling and mission trips apart. Traveling lets you experience the place with all its sights and sounds, but a mission is altogether different. It allows you to experience the people. And that is exactly what has happened each time I have set out to follow God into places He wants to make a difference.
I found this to be true in Syria and in every other place where He has landed my feet for His purposes. It makes the world smaller as you discover how much alike you are. When you realize how the hopes and dreams of those you come in contact with look a whole lot like your own, compassion begins to build and a connection starts to grow. One woman I met in Tajikistan said it this way, “We may not know each other’s language, but our hearts will understand one another perfectly.” This has been my experience every time I have said “Yes” to joining God where He is working.
Many of you who are reading this have become part of a mission by either going on a trip yourself or supporting someone with finances and prayers. If you have never participated in any of these things, I encourage you to try one of them soon. Also try seeking out and listening to the stories of people who have traveled on a mission trip. The wealth they will share with you cannot be gained any other way. Compassion is learned from hearing and knowing and experiencing how others live.
Your life will be better for it when you get acquainted with people and communities outside of your own. Knowledge brings understanding. Together with compassion you have very powerful tools in making yourself better at loving your neighbor. Don’t put off this kind of love a moment longer. Join a mission.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion—For the whole law is fulfilled in one word:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Colossians 3:12; Galatians 5:14
Please take a look at the full article that shows more before and after photos
of the devastation in Syria here.