One week from today I will hop on a plane with the members of our team and fly off to Manitoba to spend a week together immersing ourselves in the ministry of the Winnipeg Inner City Mission (WICM). I expect that I will be experiencing many things during my time there. We will be witnessing firsthand the very real issues and problems created by poverty in the inner city of Winnipeg. Also, since the inner city of Winnipeg has a very high First Nations population and Native ministries is a very big focus at WICM, I expect to be exposed to the issues, problems and challenges that are particularly important to native people today.
Anytime I take a major trip, I spend time thinking about what I ought to take with me, how to pack and worrying about what I might forget. This trip will be no different. But packing for a mission trip is surely a little different. On a trip like this, yes, I will need to remember things like my toothbrush and razor, but what else might be essential? What else should I be sure not to forget? And what might be best left behind?
What to leave behind:
Prejudice. I have lived all my life as a middle-class white Canadian. You cannot come out of that context without absorbing — often without even being aware of it — certain prejudicial attitudes towards poor people and First Nations People. I will not list the prejudices that are common enough because I don’t think it is necessary. But even if I consciously reject such attitudes, that does not mean that they do not affect me. They cannot help but be present in my unconscious mind. So I must do my best to treat the people that I meet, not at members of some particular group but as individuals who are loved and valued by God no matter what their background, creed or status.
Judgement. It is so easy to judge people who have a different life and a different background from me. Happily, as a Christian, I believe that there is only one Judge whose rulings matter and it is not up to me to anticipate or impose such rulings.
Solutions. Are there solutions to the problems being faced by the people in the inner city of Winnipeg? Absolutely! But real solutions that make a lasting difference will not come from outside of the community. The best solutions always begin within the community where the challenges are best understood. Coming from the outside we can nurture and encourage such solutions and sometimes even clear away roadblocks that stand in the way of them, but it is rarely helpful to come in and just impose solutions.
What to pack:
An open mind. Of course, if I leave prejudice, judgement and solutions behind, there will be all kinds of room in my luggage to bring a mind open and ready to learn. Really, it is not much worth going on this kind of trip if you don’t bring one of those.
Hope. To be the bearer of the hope that we have in God is different than coming in with solutions and judgement. Hope is universal and has its foundations in the very nature of God.
Trust — that is, trust in God (also known as faith). In such a journey, things will not always go right and they will often go quite contrary to what you have planned. When you trust in God that the trip is in God’s hands, you do not need to worry and you be assured that God will make things work out even better than what you could have planned.
Oh yeah, and bug spray — I hear that mosquitoes are bad in Winnipeg.
So what do you think? What else do I need to bring? What would be best left behind?