At the end of 2017, my wife handed me an envelope. In it was a letter I had written to myself the year before — a list of things I wanted to accomplish or get through for the year. My wife also held a similar letter she had written to herself for the year. We opened our letters, read them, and just started laughing. It was a total bust. This year, as I wrote my letter-to-self, I had to rethink my priorities.
Life can come and go fast. Things get in the way of our focus so quickly and before we know it, the year has passed. Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about what I could change this year to make it different from the last. One thing that really stuck in my mind was the idea of taking a month or two this summer with my family to get away. Not to go on a luxurious vacation or experience a must-see attraction, but to go on mission somewhere.
There’s never a great time to take a month off and leave with the whole family. No matter what, you have to make a sacrifice somewhere — sports schedules, kids’ camps, work, etc. But that’s the point isn’t it? Sometimes you have to sacrifice things to do something important. We want to find a mission somewhere, maybe overseas, where we can shake up our reality a bit. I want our kids to see that we live in somewhat of a fantasy world. We will occasionally dip into other people’s lifestyles to realize this, but we’re never in it long enough to really allow the reality of it all to sink in.
Don’t get me wrong, we don’t lead extravagant lives, we don’t go and do crazy things all the time, but we live a very comfortable life on the ranch. Our lives are not normal. The point of this trip is not so much about appreciating what we have (though we always should), but to recognize how other people groups live so we can develop the heart desire to serve them. It’s easy to get caught up in the habit of being served, and when we do, we get used to all we’re blessed with and don’t appreciate them as much as we ought to.
This past Thanksgiving, we decided to move back into our original, small lodge on our property, which we lived in for ten years. It’s only about 300 yards away from the larger house we’ve been living in for the past 4 years, but it’s very small and very simple. So for a few days, we gave up our comfortable, spacious living space and escaped into the lodge, with no TV or internet and where our kids had to all share one bedroom.
My thought was that the kids would grow to appreciate our big house more afterward, but the opposite ended up happening. The whole thing actually backfired on me, but in a really cool way! My kids actually seemed to prefer living in tight quarters where there was no getting away from everyone. We didn’t watch TV, instead we played board games together in front of the fireplace. They liked the simple life, and so did I.
Likewise, when we take a mission trip this summer, I want a radical mindset shift to happen — not just for my kids, but also for my wife and me. It’s a huge blessing to live in this country, but it can also be a curse. I even think it can be easy to get through the American life without realizing your need for God; it might not cost us that much. We can become the convenient Easter Sunday or Christmas Eve service Christians, or even the every-Sunday-morning Christians, but if that’s as far as it goes, we have a problem.
I know a lot of really “good” people who seem to live well but don’t have Christ. These can be some of the hardest people to reach with the Gospel. They don’t feel an overwhelming need. I’m hoping that as we enter into a very different culture and reality, we see another side of life, where people who have little to nothing can be the ultimate picture of joy and peace. They may have nothing, but if they know Christ and live with Him in their lives, they are the richest of all.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The Bible does not say God so loved this country, it says He loved the world. All people groups are God’s children and we are called to love them just as we would our own children, friends or teammates. We need to care for them in the same way He does.
I hope this trip, and this new year, gives us all a new perspective to see the world the way our Heavenly Father does.
— Adam LaRoche, former MLB player