Short-term mission teams have always been an important part of Starfish Ministries, as we have introduced groups from churches and universities to God’s work in Haiti. It is exciting to watch these Americans and Canadians minister to our Haitian brothers and sisters and to see how God uses the missions experience to impact team members’ lives for his purposes.
Over the next few months we will take three different groups to Haiti. Later this month, a team from First Reformed Church in Lynden, Washington, will join us. In May a group of students from Washington State University is going. And in June we will take another group of students, this time from Central Washington University.
When we discuss mission trips, we often talk about the Great Commission, Jesus’ command at the end of Matthew’s gospel to “make disciples of all nations.” And rightfully so. Making disciples is one of our purposes in going to Haiti. And our prayer is that team members’ time in Haiti will help to equip them to continue making disciples at home.
But in this month’s letter, I want to focus on the verses that precede the Great Commission, specifically Matthew 28:16, 17.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted.
In these two verses I see three principles that apply not just to short-term missions but to every aspect of Starfish Ministries. In fact, these principles apply to every part of our Christian life.
First, the disciples were obedient to the seemingly lesser instruction of Jesus – to go to the mountain – before they were given the Great Commission. Like the faithful steward in Christ’s parable of the minas (Luke 19:11ff), they were faithful in little before being trusted with much.
So often, we dream of the great things we would like to do for God. We long to travel to foreign lands, to preach the gospel to the nations, to feed the hungry and care for the sick, to build homes and schools and churches. Those are great dreams – and God may bring them to pass – but we must not neglect the call that God has put before us today. There are needs in our own homes and schools and churches that we can meet – that we are called to meet. Let us be faithful in these areas even as God prepares us for what lies ahead.
Second, the disciples worshiped Jesus, and that must always be at the center of everything we do. It is easy to become focused on the work. It is easy to become distracted by the needs we see all around us. Our ministry can become an end in itself if we allow it.
But we mustn’t lose sight of the truth that our chief aim is to glorify God in all that we do. And every act of service should first be an act of worship.
Third, some of the disciples doubted. Now doubt is never a good thing. But the key is what they did with their doubt. Even in the midst of their own uncertainty, they made a choice to trust in Christ. Some doubted, but they all went to the mountain. Their belief may not have been perfect, but they committed to worshiping the Lord.
As the father of the afflicted child said to Jesus in Mark 9:24, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And that is the beginning of dependence of God, that even when we don’t see clearly, we choose to trust in the one who does.
These were the disciples to whom Jesus first gave the Great Commission. They were faithful to God in small things as well as large. They worshiped their Lord. And they trusted in him despite their uncertainty. And this is the kind of disciples he calls us to be: faithful, worshipful, and dependent.
So thank you for your faithfulness as together we continue to depend on God to supply for the work he has called us to. Last month we shared with you about Joline, a girl in the fourth grade in our school in Ti-David. As an infant, she was severely burned in a cooking fire, and because of significant scar tissue on one foot and leg, she has never been able to walk without a homemade crutch. Your response was overwhelming. Joline has now seen a surgeon and we are working out the details to schedule her surgery.
Thank you so much for generosity in this area and so many others. You are a blessing to us, and we thank God for you.
Serving the Lord together,
Bernie, Sheryl & Philip Bovenkamp