Unknown Territory

Crossing borders always brings a mix of emotions. On the one hand, the prospect of crossing a border stirs feelings of excitement and anticipation within me. I love travelling, I love exploring, I love discovering new things and growing through these discoveries… On the other hand, it also brings a certain fear of the unknown. What lies beyond the horizon, and how will it affect me? How will I be challenged? How will I grow? Crossing any border is like charting new and unknown territory.

For a few months I had been carrying a dream: to take a team of young people and adults from the Freeling parish to an overseas mission field. I shared my dream with Glenice Hartwich and by the end of the week she had put me in touch with Dr William Chang from the Lutheran Church in Singapore.

Several months later, a week after Easter, I found myself sitting on a plane to Cambodia. It’s been something of a whirlwind journey. But still the dream continues to grow. We are now in the process of preparing a team of 17 people to travel in January, and we will be joined by a team from Singapore. We will have a team of doctors and nurses with us with the aim of providing free medical clinics to villagers. We also hope to assist local Christians in a building project and by sharing the gospel through games, songs and Bible stories. It’s especially exciting to have a team of our young people joining us.

As we come to terms with Cambodia’s tragic past, our prayer is that we will all grow through the experience. Along the way there have been many borders to cross and there will be many more to come. There will be cultural borders, with strange foods, accents, words and customs. Waking up to the smell of fish balls or seafood congee may take some getting used to, when plain old cornflakes sounds far more appetising. For many of the people travelling, the cost of going to Cambodia will present a significant border in itself and many of them will need to make genuine sacrifices to scrape the funds together.

Poverty, disease, heat, humidity, sights, smells and being completely out of our comfort zone – each of these and so many other things represent yet more borders to cross. Crossing borders is hard work! It’s certainly easier to stay at home where things are safe and familiar. So why do we do it? To learn and grow. Sometimes we have to see what other people don’t have in order to understand how much we do. Sometimes we have to strain to understand other people and their culture in order to better understand ourselves and our own. Sometimes we have to see the world through different eyes in order to help our own eyes focus properly, to show us what the world is really like.

Sometimes we need to see the faith through hungry eyes, to remind us what a precious gift we have in our suffering Saviour Jesus Christ and how spiritually malnourished we can become in this land of plenty. Yes, the scariest border to cross is the border of humility: realising how much the people we are preparing to help will end up helping us and we may end up coming home as changed people.

And so, with some four months to go before we take off, it’s a daunting thing to look ahead and see border after border in our way. But our God isn’t a stranger to crossing borders, is he? I can’t help thinking of that ultimate border, death, which he quite literally cross-ed on a hill outside Jerusalem and which we crossed with him through our baptism. As Christians, we have nothing to fear when it comes to crossing borders. God has already flung open much more significant doors for the sake of the gospel and these little borders and barriers waiting for us are only matchsticks in comparison.

Please support our project and other shortterm mission teams like ours by remembering us in your prayers. And be encouraged! If God presents you with an opportunity to share in this kind of mission work, don’t let the borders get in the way. Beyond them wait many wonderful blessings, both for you and for the people he sends you to.

This story was also published in the October 2007 edition of Border Crossings, the magazine of LCA International Mission.

If you would like to consider the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in mission, serving in practical ways, teaching English, teaching in the seminaries and institutions of our partner churches, or in local churches, you are invited to phone Nevin on (08) 8267 7300 or email nevin.nitschke@lca.org.au. For more information, go to http://www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/volunteer/

Read more stories about volunteering at http://www.lcamission.org.au/category/join-gods-mission/volunteers/