On our 16-hour flight to India, we had a lot of time on our hands — more time than others even — since our “lucky” seats were located in a small section of the plane that happened to have defective media systems (that little screen on the seat-back in front of you). What that meant for us, was that we were unable to pass the time by watching movies or listening to music stations like the happy passengers across the aisle. Another unfortunate byproduct of the broken media system was that the overhead lights would not turn on. This further limited our available options, since we couldn’t read, write or even locate our passports, at times. Furthermore, we wanted to push through our EST internal clocks, so even though we only had three hours of sleep the night before we left, we fought our desire to crash in an attempt to transition ourselves to India time. Constrained to our airplane seats in complete darkness, we resorted to listening to the only available entertainment on Cassie’s iPhone — a Tim Keller podcast downloaded right before boarding our flight, based on a recommendation by Cassie’s brother-in-law (thanks Brad!). What at first seemed like a serious inconvenience, we soon realized was a divine appointment.
“Missions” was the title of the podcast and it unpacked the whole idea of being missional, reaffirming our motivations for this year and encouraging us. “If there is lack of joy, there is lack of mission,” Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Church in Manhattan explains. We really liked how he made the connection to being missional in an everyday sense though, not just in terms of Christianity. How a child when asked what they want to do when they grow up, almost always answers with world-changing desires — they don’t ever say, “I want to sit at a desk in an office and work on a computer pushing papers around.” When does this childlike sense of mission burn out? Why do we start placing our own selfish desires above life-changing mission and then question why we don’t have joy in our lives? “There are some causes that are greater than your personal fulfillment, and mission must burn in us because of truth and love.” Keller goes on to talk about the Christian responsibility to live on mission, because God never calls you in just to bless you without calling you to be a blessing to others. “Come in and get, so you can go out and give.”
We were feeling more encouraged with our crazy decision and even reassured about our choice of name (Agape Visuals), but the third point is what presented a challenge to us personally — How do we have effective mission? We knew we were called to serve in mission around the world that would benefit countless people, but we had not considered how to measure our effectiveness personally. This also tied in closely with a conversation we had with Cassie’s parents while driving to the airport before our first departure. They asked us what our expectations were for this year, but with the hustle and bustle of planning, packing, and tying up loose ends, this was a question we had not asked ourselves until that moment. Sure, we knew we wanted to produce quality work for every organization where we are serving and to bless them 10-fold in raising support for their causes, but we hadn’t come up with a personal goal until this podcast. In order to have effective mission, we need to work on our personal holiness. Keller explains that most people who are skeptical of Christianity haven’t ever met a holy person. Jesus sent out his disciples with holiness and they changed the world. Now we know that is our mission for this year.
When media systems fail or you feel like you are sitting in darkness, get your heart right and it will change your entire focus, from inward to outward.
If you want to listen to the Tim Keller podcast that inspired and challenged us: you can listen to it here.
Four Indian meals later (not counting the help-yourself sandwich buffet by the bathrooms), we arrived in India. Back2Back Ministries greeted us at the Hyderabad airport with flower garlands that they put over our necks, an Indian tradition. They let us call home on their cell phones, which made for some very happy (and surprised) parents! Cassie’s dad’s first words when he answered were “holy crap!” It was about 8:30pm when we headed to our hotel, so the drive was dark but the warm air was welcoming, balanced by a nice breeze. We are exhausted but thrilled and look forward to beginning our work here.