You just got settled into your classes, and that far-away land and experience that once was home is starting to fade as time marches on. Some try to keep it alive as long as possible, but as they say, time stops for no one. Then an email shows up, or your cell phone rings, and someone is asking you to help with missions week at your school. You take a break from test-cramming, and start digging through your stuff, looking for all those must-have souvenirs or gifts you were supposed to give away. You pull a few of your favorite (or random) pictures together in a slideshow, and try to get the wrinkles out of your “native costume.” Depending on your SM experience, this all can be traumatic or exciting. It either allows you to finally re-live your most incredible life experience, with permission to open your mouth about it, or forces you to relive some extremely tough times that made you grow, but which you’ve avoided remembering or sharing.
But either way, it sometimes doesn’t hit you until you’re there, behind the table, at your booth with all of your stuff that represents an entirely different world and a huge chapter in your life. It sometimes doesn’t hit you until a few people wander by and half-heartedly pick up a carving, or comment on a picture. Maybe it’s not until you are in the middle of an excited conversation with someone who is genuinely interested in your experience. But somewhere along the line, it usually does hit you. A) What am I doing here? And/or B) What am I supposed to say?
I remember coming back from my SM year in college, putting together the most awesome New Zealand booth ever in the Student Center, complete with a fake tree, a hammock, and some climbing ropes (not that you could lay down or climb, but it looked cool). But my experience had been hard, and I really didn’t know how to “recruit” SMs to go to my place. I could recommend Student Missions as a way to grow and didn’t regret going myself, but I could not recommend my experience. I could also recommend New Zealand, but not as an SM. There were still a lot of emotional tsunamis washing over my brain whenever I talked about my experience. Even when I later returned from a different experience that I completely loved and recommended, I found it difficult to explain to others. I learned–as everyone does–how to say things that people like to hear: to tell about the beautiful scenery and friendly people. But there was something in me that wanted to be 100% accurate and honest, but I didn’t know how to do that. And I realized later that it is not really possible. Because your Student Missions experience–well, you kind of just had to be there. It’s ok for people not to completely understand–because they haven’t been there yet. It’s ok that you don’t know how to explain it all–even if you did, they still might not get it. It’s ok if you are not totally enthusiastic about persuading others to go out right now.
Because ultimately, most potential SMs go because they see a long-term difference in you, not because of the worship talk you gave. They go because they hear the stories tumbling out randomly throughout the day, not because of one high-pressured afternoon, or a busy week. These times of special missions awareness are helpful to get people thinking, maybe even to make some good connections to follow up on, but it’s the faithful, honest, and open you that makes people want to go.
And one final word. It’s not all up to you. God uses a thousand ways to call hearts to service. You might be an important part of that, but relax and know that as you pursue authenticity in your relationship with God and others, He will use your story–the good, the bad, and even the ugly–to continue the story of missions in someone else’s life.