Feature

Holy Holidays

Pray, give—go

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All sorts of short-term missions trips are in vogue, and there is definitely a sentiment that questions the validity of some of them. Any trip that does not involve some concrete project (quite often exactly that—building structures in the hot, hot sun) is suspect, as if enjoyment and adventure are not acceptable by-products. Folks don’t necessarily think they should help fund other people’s “holidays” rather than “real” missions and missionaries. Perhaps they are right. But I do think there is a place for what might be called “holy holidays.”

A small group of travelers left Canada for Asia last summer with just such a holiday in mind. We think of ourselves as pretty average Christians—not a lot of visible talents to wow the crowds, but compared with the average person in Cambodia, any one of us easily could be considered affluent. Yet, from the high school student who saved money for the trip from her minimum-wage job to the retirees and men and women from single-income families, our group of seven was ready for a missions holiday.

KEEN DESIRE

We were keen to visit Cambodia for various reasons, not the least being simply to witness the day-to-day lives of our missionaries and their national colleagues. We wanted to experience the obstacles and joys of ministry in Phnom Penh. We wanted to passionately communicate to our church the “give, go and pray” challenge of missions. And we wanted to have a significant impact despite the language barrier and lack of time for relationship building. Quite a tall order but one that God, through our missionary hosts, ably orchestrated.

We flew from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Phnom Penh to visit David and Patti Ens. Years ago, our church adopted this missionary family from our district in an ongoing relationship marked by prayerful and practical support. Now, our church hosts a monthly soup and bun lunch to generate donations for the soup kitchen ministry of the Cambodian church the Enses attend.

EXPERIENCING MISSIONS

During 13 short, hot and humid days, we experienced God’s continual protection over us. This was especially needed in Phnom Penh’s crazy traffic, where motorbikes (many carrying whole families), pedal bikes, motorcycle-powered tuk-tuks galore and a few shiny, new SUVs all sidle along with vendors’ handcarts and trucks and vans piled high with people and goods of every description. The melee often makes six or more “lanes” on a two-lane street!

At morning worship in the Alliance church, every willing voice made a joyful noise to the Lord. The youth choir was followed by the women’s choir and then the men’s choir, and then the best—the kid’s choir. They even asked their Canadian visitors to contribute a song, and we had opportunities to share our testimonies.

We were challenged by the dedication of our Cambodian siblings, especially the faithful women who made and served the soup, played games with the needy neighborhood brood and then regularly share the gospel with the terminally ill at the hospital, week after week. Delivering the funds our churches had provided to help buy food, clothes and hospital mats was a truly joyful experience. We had the unexpected delight of being asked to pray a blessing on some of the patients who had accepted Jesus’ saving grace.

To make the trip complete, we visited a Christian orphanage, where we were regaled with enthusiastic singing, beautiful smiles and appreciative children reflecting the light of Jesus in overcrowded and poor surroundings. As bundles of new clothes, made possible by our church’s giving, were distributed, we saw great joy as the little ones clutched their packages to their chests with anticipation.

NO MORE PAPER FACES

God has given us richly all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). Could that include the tastes of missions? The sounds and smells of other cultures? On our missions adventure we witnessed our international sisters’ and brothers’ commitment to the same Lord and Saviour we adore! We fell in love with a tenacious shoeshine boy with a smile that brightened his face as surely as his brisk strokes brightened the leather of the shoes. We came back determined to pray fervently for those who were once unknown paper faces, names or general populations, but who are now living, breathing souls implanted in our hearts. Those have to be acceptable mission adventures!

A holy holiday indeed! Leave Disneyland, Las Vegas or Cabo out of your vacation plans this year and set apart some time and funds to enjoy serving alongside our missionaries. The dust has hardly settled for us, and we are looking for ways to do it again!

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