Re-Entering Normal with a New Sense of Normalcy

Erik Cooper —  June 22, 2011 — 8 Comments

Symbolism.

Let’s face it, we do a lot of things because of how they look, not necessarily because they accomplish something important. Or noble. Or transformational.

The symbol becomes our righteousness. The event. Our intent. The photo album. The Twitter posts.

And some of that stirs my cynicism.

I’m in day four of Honduras detox. Still feeling the physical fatigue and spiritual weariness of 8 days amongst the least of these on the northern coast of that beautiful country. And I’m wrestling some deep questions:

If our lives are just the sum total of special events, what are they really?

If mercy is confined to a week in June, is it really mercy?

Is a plantain a fruit or a starch? They look like bananas, but they sure do taste like potatoes. (Not all my questions are apparently so deep).

Short-term ministry trips have gotten some valid criticism in my social circles. They don’t really make a sustainable difference. They simply feed the American fix-you ego. The $1,500 travel expense would be more effective invested in long-term initiatives. It’s just a self-righteous photo-op. It’s nothing more than episodic compassion.

There’s some truth in there. Some real dangers. Worthy tensions to embrace.


Attending a weekly church service doesn’t make you a follower of Jesus, taking your wife out for dinner doesn’t mean you have an intimate marriage, and spending a week among the poor in La Ceiba, Honduras doesn’t place an completion sticker on your Great Commission chart.

But these events, these coordinated efforts, these “episodes,” can be powerful triggers for long-term transformation if we allow them to be a means, and never an end.

I know 22 people who are siphoning through what 8 days in Honduras means for them today. For their right now. For this very moment. Twenty-two people who have re-entered normal with a new sense of normalcy. Twenty-two people refusing to allow this “episode” to be a momentary high on the road they were already traveling, but contending to make it a starting point on a completely new adventure. A Kingdom adventure.

And that kind of awakening has no price tag.

What events have triggered long-term transformation in you?

8 responses to Re-Entering Normal with a New Sense of Normalcy

  1. Great thoughts, Erik. Reminds me of a blog from Love146 I saw this morning. http://love146.org/blog/poverty-porn

  2. This reminds me of something Mother Teresa said to those who came to Calcutta short term. Upon leaving she would tell them to go and find their own Calcuttas. So, Eric, find your own Honduras. =]

  3. I would like to add a little note to your thoughts… Short Term trips are not a waste of time, nor are they a temporary fix. I’ve witnessed first-hand nationals whose lives were transformed by a short term mission team. They erected churches, ministry centers, and buildings that will forever impact the communities around them. How about the Jesus Film showing that had so many people come to Christ that night that they started a church, and now the church is like a city on hill to a very dark place? Thank you, Eric (and the other 22 team members) for sacrificing time and resources to share your life with the people in Honduras. You did make a difference. Don’t pay attention to those naysayers! My guess is that most of them haven’t even stepped foot on foreign soil… much less a third-world country. Lives are changed, souls are won, and we need to praise God for that!

  4. Rachel Sayers June 23, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    I especially love how you put together the Attending a weekly church service paragraph.

    I find the way you communicate Holy Moments very compelling. It’s awesome to see what God is doing in and through you.

    ha about the plantains…ha ha

    The key is so what you said! IF WE ALLOW THEM TO BE….

    Rock on! And don’t forget, it’s about the people on the otherside too. You won’t ever fully know on Earth what longlasting life your visit meant to the receivers. But this you know, that His word does not return void. The word you carry and drop off, is there working still, just as it is working in you. Way to go.

  5. Provacative questions, Erik, and great to ponder on. Before your next trip, I’d recommend you read “When Helping Hurts”. It provides some good guidance about trips and long-term and short-term ministry.

  6. “What events have triggered long-term transformation in you?”
    I believe any “event” where we move with the Holy Spirit’s prompting will trigger long-term transformation. The Holy Spirit will encourage each individual …. (go or stay or act or react) in so many different ways. When we respond the way Jesus would, the transformation begins (and the Bride is beautified.) This becomes a part of who we are and what the Church is. We are chipping away at the old nature and making a model of Christ and His Bride. Transformation is saying yes to the Spirit of Christ Jesus and no to the old nature that wants to keep us in/to the world’s standard.

    The process of transformation is long term, but I hold on to the promises of God,,, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

    I suppose the short answer is obedience to the Spirits prompting. Little or big steps in a long obedience.

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