The Embrace of Missions

A man steps out of a muddy cargo van in a foreign land and meets the eyes of another man.  They embrace, they shout, they weep.  This is not the story of two family members reconnecting after a a long time apart, but rather two Christian brothers from completely different worlds, contexts, and backgrounds reuniting on the mission field.


Those of us who have experienced a short-term mission trip can remember going to new lands to be overwhelmed by new cultures, languages, smells, foods and experiences.  Personally I was involved in short-term mission trips to Mexico, Jamaica, Equador, Honduras and even Africa.  Those who have been ‘sent’ to these new lands look back on their experiences with full hearts.  What I notice, however, is that what I remember most of those trips is not the new languages, foods I ate, houses I built, songs I sang or children I hugged.  All I can remember is certain people.  And I remember them vividly.  There are those people who even though you don’t share culture, background or language, somehow you become a brother and sister in Christ.  For me I remember Raymond, Marta and Emmanuel. 


Who do you remember?


For Keith Cathcart, he always remembered Chuky.


Many of us connected with young Chuky in Mexico because he was young and funny and open.  Working with Faith Ministry on the border of Texas and Mexico, we were there to serve families in poverty and help them to build homes as they built up their lives.  This faith-based organization came around these families with the hope of Christ, and for one week we would come in and to build and love alongside them.  In this context, we all felt like we connected with the people of Mexico, but evidently Chuky connected with some of us too. 


The embrace story that I shared was not long-lost family but instead Keith and Chuky reconnecting after 10 years of not seeing each other.  10 years of no communication at all and coming from WHOLLY and COMPLETELY different worlds but yet their hearts had connected and they were once again reunited in embrace.  It was unplanned and paints a picture of something deep in the heart that longs for connection, is created for connection, and rejoices in the connection.


Many years later, my husband and I serve on the mission field of South Africa with our two children.  We now live on the mission field, living among a community of people who are disadvantaged, and I see people coming and going almost daily whose aim is ‘mission’ and to love those who are in need.  They come in and set up kids’ clubs, paint faces of little children, feed soup to the hungry, walk through the community and share about Jesus, and everything else in between.  Sometimes being on THIS side of missions I even wonder if it is making a difference?  The kids seem to go back to normal, the next day the people are hungry, and do they really remember the Jesus they had just heard about?


But then I see a story like Chuky’s and something in my soul says that THIS is the power of missions.  The power of missions, the possibility of missions, the PURPOSE of missions isn’t the painting, and work, and evangelizing, and face painting, although those things are needed.  No those acts are only the vehicle for the EMBRACE of missions.  The hope is that two people from completely different worlds and cultures would meet and connect and their lives would embrace in a way that changes them both forever.  No it doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s nothing short of holy.


So missionaries, both short and long term, I encourage you to keep reaching out, to keep connecting to keep looking for your ‘Chuky’ and to give them all you have while you share a short moment in time together. 


It’s the power of the embrace.