Missionary Care and Backpacking – (Part 1)

Backpacking is one of the best ways to completely unplug from our modern, fast-paced, digital and “always connected” world. A few days in the wilderness forces the adventurer to un-plug and to re-engage the base elements of who we truly are from God’s perspective so that He can speak to our inner core.
A few weeks ago, Bill Britt and I made our way to the backcountry of California’s western Sierra Mountains. Beginning at around 7,800 feet and ascending Mitchell Peak at 10,365, we had some time on the trail to allow the Lord to help us understand what missionaries are experiencing on the field. Even though we hear their stories and try to help from afar, we rarely get the chance to slow down enough to gain a broader perspective. The next two blog posts are just some thoughts from this strenuous and even gnarly trail.
Keeping the end goal in mind is the greatest motivator. We heard that Mitchell Peak has one of the best panoramic views in this mountain range, so no matter how steep the trail, we were committed to reaching the peak. The goal was worth the investment of time, energy and even blisters. However, there were times when all I could do was put one foot in front of the other. My eyes were fixed to my feet, staring at the rocks and the roots, while all around me was a gorgeous landscape of trees, shrubs and glimpses of vast canyons. Likewise, our missionaries need to be continuously reminded of their end goal. They may revert to the tunnel vision of their day-to-day struggle and never raise their heads long enough to take in the beautiful landscape of God’s Kingdom being built all around them. Missed opportunities, rejection and heartache may distract them from enjoying the Lord’s provision all along their journey.
There is much to be learned from the old adage “where there is smoke, there is fire”. Our hike was planned months in advance, way before wild fires effected many of California’s national parks. We could smell the smoke and from the peak, we could see billows of smoke and ash in the distance. Though fire can destroy the trees, there is amazing resiliency of the forest to restore itself. We packed through areas where fire had blazed through in previous years. The tall trees were standing dead, but amazingly, small trees were beginning to grow that would eventually take their place. In the midst of trials, missionaries need to remember Ecclesiastes 3: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” There are seasons of growth, seasons of decline, seasons of hardship and seasons of renewal. The church can help them determine what season they are in, and help them to look forward to what will come.

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