Part of the mission for our first year as Life Teen missionaries can be very difficult. Almost every Friday, different parishes of teens arrive at Camp Covecrest (our home for Life Teen Missions year one) to go on retreat with their respective youth groups. Our mission is to Lead Teens Closer to Christ. Christ basically brings teens to us in order for us to lead them to Him. How much easier can it get?!? We don’t even have to leave home. The mission comes to us. So Mark… if the mission comes to you, why do you say it’s so difficult?
One of the hardest parts of this “style” of mission is not seeing the fruit of my labor. I spend a weekend eating meals with teens, getting to know them, sharing my testimony, talking to them about their relationship with God, pouring out as much love as my imperfect, sinful self is able, and then on Sunday, they pack up and go home, and I have no idea whether they left with a new desire for God in their heart or whether they are going back to real life with nothing gained.
It is so hard to keep doing what you’re doing if you don’t see what good is coming from it! Imagine cooking dinner for a family. If you never taste the meal yourself and you never see the reactions of the family or get feedback on your work, you would always wonder, “Did it taste good? Did it satisfy?” If you’ve worked in youth ministry, you can relate too. Sometimes you pour everything you’ve got into a talk or a small group or a retreat, and while you may see some fruit of your labor, you’re still left to wonder, “Am I really making a difference?”
Or if you’re a teen, you can relate. School is good at letting you see the fruit of your work. You get grades. Sometimes you wished you didn’t have to deal with the fruit because sometimes it tastes rotten (no one likes an F), but at least you know what good (or bad) is coming from your work. How about when you’re praying for someone else in intercession and you never know if your prayer was answered? Isn’t it hard to keep praying when you’re not sure your prayers are doing anything?
Here’s where it all comes together. We are a people of the Resurrection. Our salvation comes from the fact that Jesus not only died for our sins but rose so that we too may rise with Him. I bet that when Peter and John ran to the tomb on Resurrection day (John 20:3-9), they were a little thrown off. Even though Jesus told them He would rise, scripture says, “They did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (Jn 20:9).
Actually… I bet they were doubting the fruit of all their beliefs. They spent all of their time following Jesus in every way they could, and then He dies. Jesus leaves them with no fruit of their entire ministry for three whole days. They bite their nails as they await some sign that they’re on the right track. Then He rises from the dead and all they get is an empty tomb!
Sometimes in our lives it seems like all we have is an empty tomb. The evidence of Christ moving and living with us doesn’t seem that exciting. But if we stop for just a second, we can realize that the lack of fruit is a sign that Jesus will soon appear and show us what we need to believe. In scripture, He shows the Apostles His wounds and they believe. In our lives, He will show us what we need to believe.
So it’s time for a gut-check: what does it take for us to believe? Are we like Thomas who needed to not only see, but actually feel the wounds of Christ, or will we choose to believe even when we don’t see the fruit of our labor?