by Jill Lienemann, Kesher International Missions | ©2013
“…and received us all.” (Acts 28:2 NASB)
The Maltese received all 276 castaways without partiality; however, the socioeconomic differences among the group would have been noticeable. Visually, the centurion’s purple adorned uniform would be in contrast from the prisoners’ wool tunics and shackles. The ship captain’s attire could be distinguished from the crew’s garments. The ethnic diversity between the Egyptian seamen, the Roman soldiers and the Israeli prisoners was also discernable. Audibly, several languages (Latin, Hebrew, Greek and Phoenician) were spoken among the individuals.
Although the natives warmly tended to the needs of the shipwrecked group, a harsher facet of their culture would be revealed a short time later. “When the natives saw the creature hanging from his [Paul’s] hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” (Acts 28:4 NASB) The island people judged Paul based on their spiritual understanding of divine fate—influenced by Greek and Roman theology mixed with pagan and tribal beliefs.
Your mission team will consist of diverse people who have different backgrounds, nationalities, and occupations. The nationals may receive each of you equally with great affection especially if you are visiting Africa, Asia, South America, etc., which are considered “hot-climate” or relationship-based cultures. However, their acceptance of you and your extended hand does not reflect their receptiveness of your faith. Some will be suspicious of your actions due to their deep-rooted religious traditions or because of previous not-so-great interaction with other missionaries and/or mission teams.
Prior to trip departure, spend time getting to know what belief systems and ancestral faiths you will encounter in your destination country. Understanding their religious perspective will help you know how to communicate the Gospel so they will see their need for Jesus as Savior and Lord. “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.” (John 12:49 NKJV)
In the mission field, follow Paul’s example by trusting in God’s guidance and protection in every circumstance. Your faith-in-action is being watched and evaluated. “However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds…” (Acts 28: 5-6a NASB) “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20 NIV)
Remember to “Show proper respect to everyone…” (1 Peter 2:17a NIV) you encounter on your mission trip even if they have different opinions or convictions. “For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:2 NLT) God loves people! “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16 NKJV). He has commissioned us to be ambassadors of Christ, who didn’t hold people’s sin against them. We have the honor to share the message of reconciliation with God through Jesus. (2 Corinthians 15:18-20)
KESHER PRAYER (connection): Lord, thank you for the open doors into people’s lives on this mission trip. Though some may be cautious of our message, please give me the words that will help them understand how much you love them. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV) Open my heart to see others as you see them and not to judge them harshly, as I, too, was once separated from your fellowship. I pray now for those I have and will still encounter on this journey—that they may accept Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord. Amen!