Bonnie asked me to drive her daughter Rebekkah to the retreat with me, and during the two-hour ride the 17-year-old mentioned her one-week missionary training in Romania. When I pressed for details, I expected she would share about books and lectures and instruction on "contextualization," but instead she told me about her first assignment.
Upon arrival, the trainees, who hailed from various places and were strangers to one another, were divided into groups, with each group given a task to work on together, some kind of scavenger hunt. They were told they could discuss the project at their leisure, but once they left the building they would have only 20 minutes to locate the designated area and complete the task.
It turns out that none of the groups was able to succeed. Moreover, the directors informed the participants afterward that no group had ever succeeded. Badly designed assignment? Maybe. But Rebekkah, in hindsight, flagged several mistakes her group had made.
First, they had not bothered to pray. In their zeal to win the contest, praying had gone out the window; it had not even come to mind. Secondly, they had forgotten the part of the instructions that allowed as much time as needed before leaving the building, and so they had failed to stop and properly analyze the situation and plan their strategy, and to ascertain the respective gifts of each member of the group.
Jesus said that if a man is faithful in the small things he would be faithful in the great things. What is smaller than a missionary training scavenger hunt? If we omit the basics of spirituality-prayer, considerateness, humility-in an assignment where the stakes are low, what will we do in situations where the pressure is really high?
The goal is important, but the journey to the goal is important, too. In fact, in the life of Christian righteousness, journey and goal are one: We do the Lords' work in the Lord's way, or we are not really doing the Lord's work.