Mission is messy (and could keep you up at night)
Written by Bradley Long

Have you had one of those energy drinks? They are high on caffeine and, apparently, other ingredients intended to keep you awake. I don’t recommend them. Especially if it is 7 p.m. and you are planning to go to bed.

I recently was able to spend a whole evening with the sweet Afghan refugee family that First Pres Is co-sponsoring through the refugee resettlement office here in Harrisonburg. I had driven some of the family to see where their new home is going to be. Just before I had come to visit at the hotel where they are staying temporarily, the resettlement office had informed them that they had found them a house! The family was very excited. They’ve been here almost three months and have had a lot of trouble finding permanent housing so they wanted to go see this new house right away.

I hadn’t planned on driving them anywhere that night. But when I saw their excitement I offered, and off we went! They liked the house and I think they will be very happy there. On the way back to the hotel, I asked if they needed anything from one of the Halal markets in Harrisonburg. (“Halal” is the Islamic equivalent of “Kosher” in the Jewish faith.) They said yes and we stopped for a few minutes. When they came back to the car, the husband in the family handed me a can and said with a broad smile on his face, “This is for you, my friend!”

It was an energy drink. It was also 7 p.m. He also opened it for me.

So, I did the only thing I could do. I took it, thanked him with a big smile and drank it.

Needless to say, I had trouble going to sleep that night, and I didn’t sleep well at all throughout the night. (I’m not in college anymore so I don’t handle caffeine as well as I used to!) This also wasn’t the first “difficulty” I’d had in relating to this family. Some of the folks on our co-sponsorship team at First Pres have also had struggles trying to connect with this family. Apart from being from a different culture and religion and speaking a different language, this family has experienced truly horrible loss and tragedy as they’ve had to flee Afghanistan. Since here, their phones have been out of service multiple times when we’ve wanted or even needed to contact them to help connect them to different services. During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the women in the family didn’t want to meet up with anyone because they needed rest and wanted to pray.

In short, this experience has been messy.

But when I think about mission, I think about mess. Mission is messy. In fact, the very heart of the Good News of the Gospel is that God decided to send Jesus down into the middle of the mess that we call life. Jesus came to save us from ourselves and from the sin inside every human that hurts ourselves and others and pushes God away. Jesus was born into the mess, lived in the mess, loved those consumed by the mess and died a bloody, painful, messy death for us. Then, God raised him from the dead and broke the power of sin and death, forever transforming the mess of this world altogether!

Jesus calls those of us who follow him and claim his as Lord to engage the mess. Despite our best efforts, we can’t sanitize mission. Mission can’t be cleaned up and made to look beautiful so that we can feel more comfortable doing the work God calls us to. If we want to be like Jesus, we have to jump into the mess of life with others. We have to expect that it’s going to be hard and frustrating and messy.

But so often when we dive into the mess, someone is going to experience Jesus.

Bradley, an ECO minister who worships at First Pres., works with Frontier Fellowship to connect U.S. churches with indigenous mission partners in Southeast Asia. You can contact Bradley at [email protected]