By Steven Norris
When our schooner pushed off from the dock in Miami, I knew that it was going to be a mission trip unlike any other. We sailed throughout the night, despite a small storm and some seasickness onboard. Arriving in the North Bimini, Bahamas, we we waited for hours with growing uncertainty and no word from the rest of our team traveling on a separate boat.
Our captain suggested we set sail for the island of Andros (our planned destination). Headwinds kept us moving along what felt like an aquatic treadmill, even with our small motor running wide open. We dropped anchor in a harbor and decided to wait until the next day to see if the wind was more cooperative.
Since it was a Sunday, the team agreed that we would go ashore to find a Baptist church for Sunday worship. We received a warm welcome from the greeters at the church, who ushered us to a pew near the front of the sanctuary. As the team leader, I was taken back to the pastor’s office to meet with him in private.
At the end of my story, the pastor leaned back in his chair with a gigantic belly laugh that filled the small room. I will admit, I didn’t exactly find the humor in the story, but he went on to explain.
“Every year, we have a team from North Carolina come and help us with our Vacation Bible School. For some reason, they cancelled on us this year, and we were wondering what we were going to do.”
“Well, when is it?” I asked.
“It starts tomorrow!” He exclaimed.
“What exactly do you need?”
“Well, I need someone to help lead music. (I was serving as the music minister at the time.) We need teachers for three classes. (We had three school teachers among our group of 13.) We need someone to help with games. (We had a college student majoring in sports and recreation science.) We need a little help with some repair projects around the church. (We had two gentlemen in construction on our team.)”
As you might have guessed, we had exactly the team to meet the need of that church for that moment. We later learned that the other team was safe, having traveled directly to Andros, where they were enjoying a meaningful trip and completing the projects we had planned.
Too often, our approach to missions involves asking God to bless our meticulously laid-out plans. I don’t want to minimize the importance of planning, but sometimes we have the greatest impact for the Kingdom of God when we just show up and say, “God, I am available. You lead me to the place you want me to go.”
Imagine the revolution in missions that might take place if we were less tied to our pre-made plans and even more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in each and every moment. The most effective ministry opportunities are often found in the detours.