Missing Relatives

Romans 1:5: Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.

The Search

The famous author Ernest Hemingway tells the story of a father and his teen-age son Paco in Spain. Their relationship drifted apart and the son ran away from home.  After some years, the father began the long journey in search of his lost and rebellious son.  He searched and searched.  Finally, as a last resort, he put an advertisement in the Madrid newspaper that said, “Paco, meet me in front of the Madrid newspaper office on Tuesday at noon.  All is forgiven.  I love you.  Dad.”

The father wondered if his son was even alive and if the ad would do any good. With a great sense of insecurity, he stood across the street from the Madrid newspaper office at noon on Tuesday. He was shocked at what he saw. Not only did his son show up, but over 800 “Pacos” showed up, all being estranged from their fathers and all seeking forgiveness.

In a real sense, this story illustrates the heart and humanness of our mission. It also shows us how many “Pacos” are out there. The harvest is great. The mission Christ has given to you as a young person or to you as a youth leader requires you to care about lost sisters and brothers across the ocean as much as you would care for your real sister or brother when she or he is lost.  It is also a mission He has given to the fathers whose children have run away from the family.  The mission of finding those who are lost depends on your positive attitude toward finding your lost brothers and sisters in China, Nigeria, and everywhere God’s creation lives.  You can make an important difference in this mission.  The world is smaller than years ago.  It is now possible to take mission trips and help at servant events in countries thousands of miles away from home.

Not long ago, one of the senior leaders in our organization proudly told me he was related to one of our ministry directors in Asia.  At first I thought he must be wrong.  How could a Caucasian living in St. Louis be related to an Asian living in Southeast Asia?  It just didn’t seem right.  But these days of global movement of peoples and communication are scattering people throughout all nations of the earth at a must faster pace than even the Tower of Babel when the people began to speak more than one language (Gen. 11).  Quite literally, many of you may have a relative who is teaching English abroad or married to a person in another country.

Whether or not you actually have a blood relative who is living in another country is not important.  What is important is that as brothers and sisters in the human race, Christ has asked you to reach out and find those lost family members that Jesus so desperately loves in more than 280 countries.

Talking to Ourselves

Usually when I see a person sitting on a park bench talking to himself, I wonder if the person is going to seek professional help or if they just plan to live with their problem in plain view of everyone.  Sometimes we in the Church need professional help.  We talk to ourselves too much.  We are healthiest when we are talking with others and caring for them.  In some ways, we can say the opposite of doing mission work is talking to ourselves and/or only talking to fellow Christians.

Professional psychiatrists observe that people who love and reach out to others to help them are not the people who most often come to them for professional help in the mental health field.  Rather, it seems the folks who are obsessed with themselves have the most problems.  It seems that God has created people to be the most fulfilled and engaged when they get involved in the mission to share Jesus and help others.  From my own experience, I can tell you that during those times in my life when I reach out to others and try to serve them is when I am the most fulfilled.

So reach out–don’t get caught talking to yourself.  Our Lord has given you the mission and the opportunity to reach out to one or two of the nearly six and one-half billion people in about 280 countries.  One or two of them may even be in your school or living in your community.

More Similarities than Differences

If I ask you to picture yourself living in South Africa, would you picture yourself as living much differently among different kinds of people or would you view your lifestyle there as being quite similar to the one you live here in America?  My guess is that most of you would think it is a lot, lot different.  I can tell you from experience, however, that you have more in common with people in Iraq, South Africa, Japan, and Bolivia than what you can imagine.  If you have the opportunity to participate in a servant event in one of these countries or to be involved in some mission project abroad, you will see great similarity in humans in terms of common aspirations and wishes in life.

It is my hope that one day you will have an opportunity to travel abroad for at least a short time and to experience the love and care and warmth of people in another country. Indeed, they are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Many of those whom you will meet may know Jesus just as you do and they will be your good friends just like your friends here.  Many others will not know the Gospel of our Savior. They don’t know about the forgiveness that the Father has waiting for them.  The nice thing about it is that you are bringing good news to people, not bad news.  It is the news that frees, enthuses, invigorates, and gives hope to your relatives around the world.  Join in the mission–Christ’s mission–the most fulfilling task you will ever do this side of heaven.

Published December 1, 2004

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