How 24 hours of short-term mission can change your life.

 In Featured Stories, Mission, Serving Asia Magazine

By Rob McArthur – OMF New Zealand’s South Island Coordinator.

Of the approximately 23,000 days I have lived so far, a few have changed my life.  Here are some.

2010 found me sitting at a table at a Bangkok street café, watching the interaction between a co- worker and his local Muslim friend etch itself into my brain. A new father, the cell phone came out and the picture of his baby is passed around. Admiration flowed. At that point I could see a friendship that would allow the message of Christ to be heard.

The next day, sitting there with tears welling up in my eyes I listened to the account of a Muslim young man who having seen his friend come to faith wanted what he had. Telling this young man to listen to Jesus as he had previously listened to Mohammed. (Not a bad explanation of the Christian Faith I thought) they began meeting. The sticking point; Jesus being God. Two years later this young man would say as he read John 1 in tears, ‘Now I understand’.  Not only angels rejoiced that day.

Two weeks ago, in a Bible School with a small group hearing them say ‘we have never heard this before’. My first experience of actually doing mission.

I first saw the stains of betel nut on the teeth of both young and old in Myanmar. The orange smiles and marks from spitting on the road made me cringe every time I saw it (Betel nut is a drug like cannabis or tobacco). My heart sank as I saw it again two weeks ago, on my trip, but I also met someone freed from its power by Jesus.

Then there was the reservoir that got drained. It was part of a water project, desperately wanted by the community, but the water seller wasn’t on board – he saw it as a threat to his business. I learned much about aid and development that day.

It didn’t stop there. Back in Bangkok I saw in the distance two men fishing in a canal. I felt sick; the water I had walked past was so polluted it was green. As we walked on, we talked about a missional business project to clean up the water using an enzyme developed by a Singaporean University. There was hope.

I’ll always remember the amazing building built for the APEC leaders meeting, but it was the letter on a noticeboard in a Christian hospital – one of two in the province serving 30,000 people – advising Government-paid nurses that their wages would be reduced by 60% that will really stick with me.

Then in another country I saw people next door, living in mud huts, walking two miles for water to wash, preparing a MUMU for us to express their gratitude. A pig was killed, vegetables prepared and we waited. I learned later a pig represents about 800 hours or 20 weeks work in Papua New Guinea for someone on the minimum wage. The equivalent in New Zealand would be about $14,000. That day I learned a lesson in generosity.

“But I walked three days to get here”, said a patient of my new dentist friend on the Thai Burma border when she was given antibiotics to clear up an abscess and told to come back in two days so the tooth could be removed. I remember thinking of the number of dentists within 20 minutes of my home.

To enter a culture – even for a moment – where life is cheap, grace unknown and ‘gods’ have a scale of fees, can teach us much on both the value and need of the message that God is for us, not against us (Rom 8:31).

Mission, as I understand it, is about giving the freedom to make a choice. Let’s not underestimate what 24 hours can do in someone’s life.


This article originally appeared in our October/November 2018 edition of Serving Asia magazine. If you would like to sign up for more articles, stories and testimonies, enter your details below:

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