The first Sabbath in San Antonio was all about mission—from Elder G. T. Ng’s sermon to the creative afternoon program highlighting the church’s strategic mission focus for the next quinquennium and the inspiring evening reports from the North American Division (NAD) and the Middle East and North Africa Union Mission (MENA).
One sentence during the Sabbath school program struck a note in my heart. “There is a mission at every distance,” noted Cheryl Doss, director of the Institute of World Mission.
There is a mission at every distance.
Seven words—for once not from my friend and colleague Lael Caesar—that are highly significant for this church—and for us individually.
They tell us that mission does not need a program with a catchy name.
They tell us that mission happens in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our local congregations—and all around the world.
They speak of space and time.
Mission is not just about going, but—perhaps even more significant—about seeing. We see opportunities as we walk around the community we live in. We see needs and respond to them. We see hurting people and move to respond to their hurts and pain. We realize that without a Savior we are truly lost—and then this knowledge drives us to look at those around us with new eyes. We all are lost. And suddenly a program or an initiative gets a face and a voice and we become connected.
“There is a mission at every distance” is a call to connection. Mission in our families, neighborhoods, churches, regions, and across the ocean is not virtual or by proxy but up close and personal. My seeing drives me to action and engagement.
A personal story may illustrate this.
Some years ago we needed to replace our refrigerator. We had visited numerous big-box stores and finally decided to buy from a smaller distribution company. A number of visits led to more personal conversations—particularly with Brian, one of the sales managers. On that particular day I had to return to the company to pick up something that had not been included in the delivery. It was wintertime, and a thin coating of snow covered the ground. I had planned a quick entrance and exit—I did not anticipate spending much time in the company’s sales office.
As we were walking from the sales office to the storage location, I asked Brian about his family. It was one of those polite questions we often ask to make conversation. On earlier visits I had learned that Brian was married and had two young children. On this occasion, however, a polite question offered a unique opportunity. Brian glanced at me sidewise and then confided in me that his wife had moved out from home. Tears welled up in his eyes when he told me that “it just didn’t work anymore.”
“Can I pray for you?” I asked, not knowing how Brian would react. Hope broke through that cold afternoon as we bowed our heads and spoke to the One who can mend families and heal broken relationships.
I don’t know the rest of the story. When I tried to contact him some time later, I was told that he had resigned from his job and moved to another place.
One question, one prayer—there is a mission at every distance.
Gerald A. Klingbeil is an associate editor of the Adventist Review magazine who is eager to see the mission at every distance.