November 17, 2010

Catching the Spirit of Mission

 A few weeks before making travel arrangements to attend a recent weekend alumni reunion, the program coordinator called with a request that I present a 10-minute talk emphasizing the blessings of being involved in mission service. My first impression was that this was an impossible task to accomplish in 10 minutes. Carrying the thought further, it would not be possible even if given an hour and 10 minutes. Why? Because being of service to others is truly learned only as one experiences it.
It was St. Francis of Assisi who said to preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words. In terms of real service, words are indeed a miserable substitute for active benevolence.
Because using words was the method needed to communicate with my audience, however, I decided to convey those words as best I could from my memory book of experience by endeavoring to paint pictures in the minds of the audience about how service has made an indelible mark in my life.

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DONATED BASEBALL GEAR: Vietnamese orphans in Palawan show off the jackets that the U.S. Pittsburgh Pirates donate to them, at the request of Feryl Harris. The Pirates also provided baseballs and bats for the some 400 orphans.

First Mission Encounters

My initial encounter came in those early years of academy when students at our school were invited to provide a vespers-type program to prisoners across the Mexican border. Being adventuresome, I agreed to join my classmates and decided that my contribution would be to sing a gospel song.
As I was singing and looking into the faces of those prisoners, something in my brain connected and I realized that this was a worthy endeavor, something I might enjoy doing again. In retrospect, I recognize this event as one that sparked a flame in my heart, leading me to catch the mission spirit.
Years later, following marriage, the flame was fanned during a time when my husband became involved with a group of physicians known as the Flying Samaritans. He was invited to provide X-ray services for the physicians going on a weekend mission trip to El Rosario, Mexico. My role was to help organize the distribution of donated warm jackets to cover the chilled bodies of the villagers living in that windy, treeless, dusty sand-bowl region, as well as to register those patients coming for medical help. In my struggle to communicate with these Spanish-speaking individuals, I desperately wished I had been more diligent in learning Spanish while in school. I wanted to really communicate, to go beyond gleaning surface information such as their names, ages, and medical needs. That weekend was sufficient to lock in my longing to savor mission service on an extended basis.
Mission Service Continues
In the ensuing years that aspiration has been fed by one long-term and several short-term ventures that have cemented the values of mission service into my being. Through these mission ventures I have:
• witnessed the conversion of a former atheistic friend, Sung Syau Lei, who now embraces the belief that Jesus Christ is his Lord and Savior.
• seen the result of teaching the benefits of simple cleanliness and hygiene to a group of Aboriginal villagers living in a mountainous region on the island of Taiwan.
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THE HARRISES: Feryl and Mahlon Harris

• had the privilege of singing and sharing gospel music with listeners and viewers searching for truth through the Chinese Voice of Prophecy.

• watched the enthusiasm of struggling Sabbath school leaders as they learned skills in effective teaching, and helped them to build up their supply of teaching aids with donated resources.
• seen the happy smiles of 200-plus Vietnamese orphans in a Philippine refugee camp wearing donated jackets and caps from a Major League Baseball club while learning to play the game with donated bats and balls.
• rejoiced with a young, teary-eyed mother whose faith was rewarded as she witnessed the healing intervention of God in restoring to health her daughter’s malaria-ridden body. This was subsequent to the doctor’s prayer that a miracle was needed. The mother, acting on firm faith that a clinic operated by Adventists was where she needed to go, traveled many hours by bus in oppressive heat to get help for her dying daughter.
• transported valuable medical supplies through customs without being assessed.
• accompanied senior students from a small academy who chose to fund-raise for the building of a church in Russia and to help build that church rather than spend money on a fun-filled trip to a theme park.
• observed those same seniors accepting a bowl of Kasha (boiled grain) as though it were a bowl of cherries in a place where food was scarce and bread was rationed.
God has never given a spiritual gift that cannot be transferred to another in some meaningful way. It may be done even in simple ways, such as sharing a good loaf of homemade bread or supplying computers to a struggling school. A person also may enter into service via many roads. They may travel long distances to the far reaches of ?Africa, Asia, or some other distant land, or the call to service may be as close as their next-door neighbor.
Catching the spirit of mission is truly an interactive undertaking and cannot be fully appreciated without hands-on experience. God provides countless opportunities to those who choose to take the first step.
Feryl Moorhouse Harris is director of children’s ministries and field representative for trust services for the Hawaii Conference. This article was published November 18, 2010.