I received an ominous voicemail from my mother. With worry in her voice she simply said, “This is mom, please call me.” Since she’s a three-time cancer survivor, my first thoughts were about cancer’s return.
When we got on the phone, she didn’t talk about her health, but rather, and apologetically, my judgement - not something she often questions. Her concern? An upcoming mission trip my wife and I would take together to Ethiopia. Her specific question was, “How could we both go on this trip, with all its risks, when we have children to finish raising?” She worries about across-the-ocean air travel, terrorism, illness and more. We talked, listened, debated and defended. In the end, we agreed to disagree.
For perspective, our kids range in age from 16 to 22. All have been on mission trips of their own, including major US cities, deep into Appalachia, and to Mexico and Guatemala. Our family operates in a circle of friends who come and go safely on these trips, who come back with hearts broken but their person fully intact. And, acknowledging that all international travel brings risks, I’d rather have my kids see me die serving others in dramatic ways than have them see me choose safety and comfort.
So what is the risk I did not expect? The relational risk that others might not understand why we’d take such a trip. The risk that I’d feel judged. The risk that all conversation about this trip will leave a bitter taste in my mouth because of this phone call. Serving has risks. God calls us to love and serve the less fortunate. I guess serving and loving are just risky business.