On Wednesday, October 25, I will be flying to Miami, Florida to meet up with the Global Ministries delegation that I will be joining on a pilgrimage to Cuba. The purpose of the trip is to give us (four UCC Conference Ministers and four Disciple of Christ Regional Ministers) an opportunity to see and experience the work Global Ministries is doing in Cuba through our mission partners there. It is an opportunity to develop a deeper sense and appreciation for the joys and challenges of their ministries by learning about the social, political, and economic realities people in Cuba face.
In preparation for the trip, I have been doing quite a bit of reading and watching the news in anticipation that our travel plans might change due to the unpredictable political climate and literal climate of storms and hurricanes. I have also been thinking about what I will bring for the trip referring over and again to the packing list Global Ministries sent us months ago. When packing for international travel there is the realization that things will not be like they are at home. Quite a few vaccinations were needed as well as the purchase of several items I would not normally bring on a trip.
Last night as I looked at the mounting piles of items I was planning to put in a suitcase and a carry-on bag, I laughed at myself. I am only going on a ten-day trip, but it looks like I am preparing for a month of traveling to some isolated location. I remembered the wonderful advice the Global Ministries representative added at the bottom of the packing list she sent out. She wrote, "Now that you have all these things laid out to pack, put half of them away or you'll have too much to carry! Be sure you can carry whatever you bring for at least a block or two by yourself. Be prepared to have a marvelous time!"
For me, her words are reminiscent of Jesus' words as he sends out the disciples on their own missionary efforts. In the ninth chapter of Luke we read of Jesus calling the disciples together and commissioning them with the power and authority to heal and to teach and preach the good news. Before he sends them out with his blessing, he told them,
"Take nothing for the journey - no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them." - Luke 9: 3-5
Jesus' instructions are more than simply telling the disciples to pack light so they will not have too much to carry. I believe Jesus is inviting the disciples to enjoy the journey. He invites them not to overthink, or over prepare for what they might need. Instead, he invites them to rely upon others and the providence of God for their daily needs.
Jesus also invites the disciples to let go of trying to control what should happen so that they will not be discouraged if things do not go the way they had envisioned. Jesus invites the disciples to be fully present, to trust that God will provide, to understand that they are not in control, but God is, and to pay attention to the incredible ways the spirit of God will move through them and the people they encounter.
As I do my final packing, I am reminded of Jesus' invitation. Thus, I will be packing more lightly than I had anticipated. I will be in prayer asking God to enable me to let go of my preconceived notions and expectations so that I may be fully present to the incredible ways the spirit of God will be moving through the people I meet and the experience I will have.
It is an honor to represent Illinois South Conference on this trip. I covet your prayers. When I return I look forward to sharing what I learned about the work and ministry of our missionary partners in Cuba. I also look forward to dreaming and planning with you about the ways we in Illinois South Conference can support the work of the Caribbean Initiative of Global Ministries.