I am still relatively new to the missions field, and thus I am still trying to grasp why it is that mission is so important... "Why are we engaged in this activity?"
I for one am not in it to convert anyone to Christianity. That's just not my thing. Besides, the people we help through our mission work are already Episcopalians. We'd be preaching to the choir. No sense in that.
I certainly understand the concept of helping those in need. So from that simple perspective, mission work makes total sense to me. However, I guess I've been searching for a deeper spiritual meaning to mission work since, after all, I am engaging in it as a member of a spiritual community, a church.
A year ago, I received a partial answer to my question of why we are doing this. It struck me that we are involved in mission work to let our fellow brothers and sisters in Honduras (and in Africa) know that they are not alone, that they can count on us for support.
So far so good. Still, though... not nearly enough.
Today, I came upon some passages in a book ("Your Sacred Self") by one of my favorite spiritual writers, Wayne W. Dyer, that gives me another piece of the puzzle.
The words reinforce much of what I've been reading lately... that we in the world (and the universe) are all One, and One with God. But yet we continue to treat each other as if we are separate from each other and that God is out there "somewhere" looking down on us. And that this is the central reason many of us feel so alone and fearful, and find it difficult and strange (if not impossible) to treat each other (particularly those who are physically and culturally very different) with complete and unconditional love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and (here's the tough one)... nonjudgmentalism.
I humbly believe that we are just not used to the concept of Oneness. Because we see each other primarily as separate physical beings rather than One in the Spirit. I believe that our true nature is spiritual, and that we are experiencing a temporary physical existence. I've always grown up with the view that we are human beings and that eventually we will transform into spiritual beings. I've always believed that this is who we really are. I do not believe that anymore.
I believe we are spiritual, and that we have to learn how to treat each other in a spiritual manner... meaning we have to treat each other as if we are One. Strange, I know. But look, the way we've been treating each other for thousands of years doesn't seem to work very well... so I figure there must be a better way.
The activity that we call "mission work" is one very good way to learn how to become One because the more we engage in it, the more our eyes are open to the fact that we in the world are more alike than different. And that those superficial physical traits to which we subscribe, in the end, mean absolutely nothing.
Here are the passages from Wayne's book that have provided me with some additional pieces of the puzzle...
"It is insane to continue believing that we are a collection of tribes, each with a separate identity and a special mission. It is insane to believe that anyone who does not fit into our particular tribal mentality is a potential enemy."
"We know that there is not a separate God for each of us, or even for each of our tribes. We know that there is a universal divine intelligence that flows through all of us, and in that sacred space within us we are all one and the same. We know that we are spiritual beings trying to learn how to be human. We know that the best within us is love, kindness and compassion."
I have tended to look at mission work as something we do for others, for those who are less fortunate than us. Surely, that is part of it. But increasingly I am seeing that mission work is something we do for ourselves to learn how to be One with each other.
On the opening page of my church's website, it states that we are a "life-transforming" church.
To me, "life-transforming" means truly learning how to treat each other as One in the Spirit, not as different human beings. Mission work in foreign countries like Honduras and regions like Africa offer another dimension to the work that we can and should be doing every day within our home, our workplace, our church, our neighborhood, our city, and our country.