First Third Conversations

I am on a Mission

By Paul Bertelson

I am on a mission. My mission is to change the world. Kind of grandiose, I know. I tend to like to think big. So, how exciting it is to have been used by God to create a youth missions organization that has mobilized over half a million teenagers to be change agents?  What is interesting to me is that I married someone who has the same mission. However, my wife has a slightly different approach.

Here is an example. For me, it is a rather common occurrence to drive past a corner “entrepreneur” aka pan handler, often being too busy to see them, or worse,  unwilling to look into their face to connect with them. If I do ponder their plight, my mind likely wanders into a somewhat complicated strategy of how to solve long term homelessness. I rationalize that any possible gift is probably just enabling unhealthy behaviors. I do mental gymnastics about how the only real help that will make a long term difference is a much deeper response to the root cause. However, my well intentioned drive by big dream quickly vaporizes as the man on the corner fades from view and memory. Soon I am on to the next big way to change the world.

In contrast, my wife, walks through life with her “need radar” always on. I mean always. Constantly and consistently, she is listening and looking for those in need. She knows from experience that every day the corner entrepreneur WILL show up. His need WILL be expressed everyday in his raggedy hand scribbled sign. It is so simply and clearly spelled out. “Please help. God bless!” As I am most likely driving by, thinking big about changing the world, my wife has stopped, rolled down the window and with a smile filled greeting calls, “Hi Brian! How are you today? Hey I’m heading to the grocery store, anything you need or like? ... Oh, some orange juice? No problem. Are you hungry? Here are a couple of granola bars. I’ll be right back!”

Today her mission trip was to the grocery store to fetch some orange juice. It wasn’t just about the juice. The mission was to tell one lonely, beaten down man that his life mattered. He is loved unconditionally and that he is not alone. Amazing what a little orange juice can say.

One might argue how much of the world did my wife really change. A lot of effort went into serving one homeless soul. No, she didn’t end homelessness today. But, yes, my wife is accomplishing her mission to change the world. Her strategy? Helping one person at a time. Responding to one need at a time.

Here is the strangest thing, it is working. Her legacy is a litany of new and old friends and acquaintances that have experienced the ripple effect of her simple acts of loving service. Each day. Every moment she can. Every day she is on a mission trip. I have a lot to learn from her about how to do life changing Christ-centered mission trips.

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Paul is the founder of YouthWorks! Inc., and serves as the President and CEO of Real Resources. Real Resources is the umbrella organization to a family of ministries—YouthWorks, Youth Specialties, The Table Project and BigStuf Camps. For more than 40 years, Real Resources ministries have helped churches better connect and impact generations for the Kingdom. He has been married to Nan, his mission mentor, for 33 years.

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