On August 3rd, I encountered a new “first” in ministry. In partnership with Mission to the World and alongside two other church members, I traveled to Poland as a courier to provide humanitarian aid to those displaced by the war in Ukraine. One of the trip’s highlights was worshiping with Christ the Savior Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Krakow, Poland. It was a beautiful reminder that I am part of God’s family – a family that cuts across nationalities, ethnic backgrounds and is bound together by the blood of the Lamb (Ephesians 2:13-14). I particularly enjoyed the sermon by Pastor Mikael Römer. He faithfully pointed us to Jesus by preaching from Mark 9:2-13. The theme of his sermon was “Following Jesus.” In his first point, Pastor Römer noted that the one we follow is the long-awaited Messiah of God – the one spoken of by the prophets and the one through whom God will restore His reign over creation, the nations, and human life (Isaiah 9:6-7). However, Christ, the Messiah of God, did not come displaying the strength of military might but the beauty of humility (Matthew 21:5).
An Anticlimactic Missions Trip
Missionary William Carey famously said, “expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.” I love that phrase as it reminds us that we serve a great God capable of accomplishing more than we think or imagine. However, during my visit to Poland, I was reminded that our expectations of what is “great” are not always in line with God’s ideas of greatness.
In my excitement to help bring humanitarian aid to those affected by the war, I subtly expected that our involvement would include doing something big, impressive, and worthy of sharing with those back home. However, my excitement was short-lived, and my pride leveled.
We arrived in Krakow on Thursday, August 4th. That evening, we enjoyed dinner with the MTW leaders from Poland and other couriers. On Friday, August 5th, we had breakfast, and then the team leaders took us to the warehouse and gave us an update on the situation in Ukraine. Shortly after, we helped load the crates into two vans, which took about 40 minutes. That was all. Once we loaded the crates in the vans, our job was done. We were no longer needed. Something about this felt anticlimactic. I thought to myself, “how can I call this a mission trip? I barely did anything big or impressive.” It was here that the Lord kindly taught me a lesson in humility.
The Good Shepherd
In conversations with someone in Poland, I was reminded that following Jesus does not mean doing something big or impressive. But it does involve having the gracious and undeserved privilege of playing a small role in the great work God is doing. Coming from America, where we treasure the motto “go big or go home,” I forgot that the Lord does not need me or my “big” actions to provide for His flock.
In Psalm 23, David expresses a deeply comforting truth about God, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” What makes David so confident he will be well-supplied? It’s simple; David’s confidence is rooted in the LORD. His life experiences, being delivered from the paws of lions and bears (1 Samuel 17:36-37), having victory over Goliath (1 Samuel 17:50), and being protected from Saul’s persecutions (1 Samuel 18:10-16), taught David that God would go to any extent to protect and provide for His own. The New Testament tells us the furthest distance to which our Good Shepherd went to provide for His flock (John 10:11). Jesus made himself poor so that we may become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). He endured rejection that we may be accepted (Luke 23:18). He died that we may live (Galatians 2:20).
God can provide for all the needs of His people…all on His own (Philippians 4:19). Yet, He often delights in meeting the needs of His people through the faithful and generous gifts of other believers. The Old and New Testaments are replete with evidence of God’s faithfulness to provide for His flock through means of faithful believers. I may not have been the tip of the spear going into the hard places of war-torn Ukraine to bring aid to our brothers and sisters. But in God’s grace, I was part of a beautiful chain of faithful and generous believers that God used to provide for His people.
May you be encouraged by what God is doing through our small acts of faith and generosity, remembering that God works through jars of clay so that the surpassing power belongs to Him and not to us (2 Corinthians 4:7). To God alone be the glory!
Juan Vasquez and his wife Julia live in Birmingham, AL where he serves at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church as Director of Mobilization.