What does a Mustard Seed got to do with Missions?

“He said therefore, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.'” Luke 13:18-19

For those of you who may not know, I was called last year to team up with a missions organization to go to Costa Rica for two months this summer. Due to logistics, I was called instead to Nepal, and then due to the earthquake, my team eventually found ourselves with plane tickets to India and Thailand. We spent June in India and then July in Thailand. Since I’ve been back for the past couple of days, “So Josh, how was your trip?” has been the general and expected response from people as they inquire about my time overseas. The problem with the question is that it really doesn’t ask very much. It’s the equivalent of a couple getting married and afterwards all the people who couldn’t make it wanting to know only how good the bride and the groom looked; it misses the what lies beyond the exterior.

What is behind the trip is the God that sent me, and bringing his kingdom is the purpose behind enduring bucket showers and heat. What is behind the trip is a Creator broken for countries lost in spiritual darkness. My trip was not easy and it was not always fun; it was hard and it was trying. Nobody has ever heard of a missionary going to the nations and everything falling into place because that’s not what ushering in the kingdom of God is about, and he promised it would be difficult (2 Corinthians 11:24-29). The good thing is that the Lord of the universe uses even those struggles and those inequities for his own glory and our own good (Romans 8:28).

One of the hardest parts about the journey was leaving people and relationships in the hands of Jesus. It was hard to get to share the Gospel with people and not have the time to get to disciple them and show them more of what Jesus is all about. In Thailand, our everyday work was teaching english to elementary aged children. We got either one or two days with the kids and teachers to teach them as much English as we could, and then for the last thirty minutes of the day, we got to present the Gospel and tell them why we were actually there. The great thing about this is that most of these children were Buddhist and had never heard the name of Jesus. The bad thing was we did not have that much time to engage in answering questions and diving deep into the Father’s love for them.

That was the definite theme of the trip—planting seeds. It was so hard to leave families and schools not knowing if they will ever truly understand the Gospel of Christ. We had to trust in the fact that the Lord is faithful to finish what he begins (Philippians 1:6). It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always pretty, but the Lord redeemed it. He showed us that he reveals himself more often through the small and the ordinary than through the grand and the extravagant. Jesus says himself in Luke 13 that the kingdom of God here in this age is comparable to a grain of mustard seed. It’s not yet comparable to a huge party and feast, though that is to come in time. He showed us the beauty of simplicity and how he shows up in the details.

In John’s account of Jesus feeding the five thousand he says that the five loaves and two fishes, which Jesus would multiply, came from a boy. This boy is not the one who feeds the multitude or heals the sick or gives sight to the blind; he merely supplies the bread and the fish for which the Lord uses to multiply. My team went humbly before the Lord and planted seeds in India and Thailand not with our chests puffed out but rather with our hands stretched to the only one who has the power to call his children home—our King Jesus. We trust that with our broken serving and our imperfection he will create in the people we met hearts set on him.

I don’t wanna spend the space explaining the day to day events of my mission (while I would be happy to do that in person), but rather I’d like to tell you a story. This story is about the little boy to the the left of me in the picture above named Neow. I met him at the second school we went to in Thailand and the Lord immediately put him on my heart. I spent the next two days laughing with him, playing with him, and genuinely trying to point him towards to Father with how I love him. At the end of the two days, we got to share the Gospel and afterwards, I asked the translator to say a few words to him that the Lord wanted Neow to know. I told him that his own true Father loves him and he cherishes him and that he will only find joy through the person, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

When I hugged him for the last time, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before: a cross dangling from his neck (Afterwards, I looked at pictures and it wasn’t physically there). I know what you’re probably thinking, “Josh, give us a break. That’s some kind of supernatural nonsense”. To which I would respond, that’s what I thought at first. But you know, we can’t force the God who created us to fit inside our feeble brains. He works supernaturally and he works according to his will. That day the Lord gave me all the confirmation that I needed to let me know that Neow was, is, and forever will be a son of the Living God.

So Josh, how was your trip? My trip was full of struggle and heartache, but its underlying current was one of redemption. I learned a lot about myself and about how the kingdom of God looks like here on earth. I wouldn’t give up any of the pain because through it came unimaginable joy. The Lord taught me how to become comfortable with the uncomfortable because that is, after all, what bringing his kingdom looks like.

Peace be with your spirit,

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