Mission Possible

“ … whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Matthew 25:40

If you want to walk on water you’ve got to get out of the boat!
John Ortberg

Don’t we just love to stay within our comfort zones, hiding behind our busyness and (over) commitments. I know I do.

Late last year, however, my wife and I stepped out of our boat (a comfortable life as expats in The Hague) and worked in a trash belt near Cluj-Napoca, Romania amongst the Roma gypsies for a week. We went with more than 60 members of our church (The American Protestant Church of The Hague (APCH)) via Dortmund and Wizz

Air (!) to Cluj. Our home was a diaconal centre and although basic, seemed like a 5-star hotel after a day at the dump; however 2 days without water gave us a taste of what the Roma lived with daily.

We divided into teams: house building, house renovation, food distribution, medical and children’s work. I was in the 2-man renovation team which mended windows, fixed doors and patched walls of the small dilapidated shacks which the Roma families know as home. Through the day, as we worked, I could “zone out” the incredible poverty – the scantily clad children, bare foot in the rubbish and the mud; the filth, the dogs, the rats and the cockroaches but in the evenings back at the centre (and now as I write) the faces of the children came back to me and my eyes filled with tears at the recollection of the plight of these families. How can this be possible and in a European country?

Wisely we were instructed at the outset that we would be frustrated and saddened by our seemingly meagre efforts in light of so much need.

Indeed it was so. We could do little to change their lives but many of our lives would be changed by them.

The rubbish dump itself was like a scene from a post-nuclear strike: apocalyptic. The children cling to the garbage trucks as they enter the site so they might have first pickings from the truck’s load.

As the temperatures drop in the northern winter and the snows fall, I can’t help but wonder how they forage for food and recyclable goods in such conditions.

Yes, I have seen the BBC documentary of the organised Romanian gangs descending on our shopping streets; yes, I haven’t heard a good word said about the Roma and yes, maybe some of the criticism is well-founded but surely no matter what your political persuasion, social prejudices or knowledge about these people: it is a fundamental human right to have access freely to sanitation, education and medical attention?

If you’ve been thinking but hesitating about going on a mission trip, hesitate no longer; get out of your boat and pray that Jesus would be your guide and strength as you step out on the water and make mission possible.