I am not a hero. I am NOT a hero. I am not a HERO.
Sometimes I have to repeat that phrase to myself so I’ll remember, well, to remember that I am no hero. I don’t have super powers, a glowing, golden lasso, or even a cleverly named sidekick. But there is something about going on a mission trip that kicks that latent “savior syndrome” into high gear.
Those of you who know me personally know that I spend a lot of time trying to coax this syndrome out of groups that volunteer in New Orleans, so you would probably think that since I rail against “savior syndrome” so much that I’d be immune to it.
Confession: I’m not.
This struggle became painfully tangible a few years ago during one of my visits to Greece. I had the incredible opportunity to take several trips there and help at a refugee center in one of the major cities. During one of these trips we were set to spend a day serving at the center. This was my fourth visit to Greece, and suffice it to say that I’d spent a lot of time in that building – cleaning, painting, praying, and sharing. I was going to help with the programming for school-aged kids. I came prepared with a Bible story, crayons, glue sticks, and googly eyes in hand, but as we began to set up for the first session, I realized I was going to be more involved in crowd control than leading anything.
I would love to tell you that I jumped at the chance to help in whatever way necessary, that I was all in, ready and willing to step back and blend into the background. But if I’m being totally honest, I was pretty bummed out. Like really bummed. Like I-feel-conflicted-deep-down-in-my-bones bummed. Thankfully though, the Lord only let me stew in my bummed-outness for a few minutes before I snapped out of it.
I shared with our team over dinner the mental struggle I had walked through earlier in the day, and I confessed that I had a moment when I was so sad that I didn’t get to be the super cool American with all the neat tricks up her sleeve who had come to entertain the refugee children for an hour before disappearing from their lives forever. And then I shared with my team how I remembered that I’m not the hero here. I’m not the one who needs to be getting any of the attention or credit. Instead, I traveled 6,000 miles to show the love of Christ in whatever way possible and to support those who are on the ground loving these children and families, day in and day out.
At the end of the day at the center, the kids walked away not remembering the cool American girl with the crazy curly hair, but instead they left knowing the Parable of the Sower and how Jesus wants them to be like the good soil, ready to receive His message and His love.
How many times do we waltz into ministry moments with a need to walk away with an experience to share or a checkbox to fill? How much more beautiful (and Christ-like) is it instead to show up, hands open and heart willing, and walk away without any accolades? As you prepare your teams to serve, whether in your hometown or thousands of miles away, be sure you’re reminding them (and reminding yourself) that we are not the heroes and that our service and our ministry should always point to Christ.