What are missions, anyway? (September 2019)

Jesus told his friends, “Go into all the world, and preach the good news to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15) Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Preach everywhere. If necessary, use words.”

A lot of people feel that missions are old-fashioned and out-of-date. In the last 50 years, many traditional missions have had to change and move in different directions. But the basic idea behind missions – to go and share in Jesus’ name – remains the same.

Quakers have usually focused on serving the poor in practical ways – we worked things like famine relief, helping victims of war and natural disasters.

We have also focused on helping people whose rights have been taken away – women’s fight for the vote and equal opportunity, the long struggle against slavery, or our work with Native Americans.

Quakers have always been deeply involved with education. Everywhere Quakers went, we started schools and colleges and training programs. Most new Quaker meetings almost automatically started a school – Springfield Friends had its own school for almost a hundred years, and we were strong supporters of Guilford College when it was started in the early 1800’s.

Quakers believe that opportunities are waiting for us, almost every time we step foot outside wherever we’re worshiping. George Fox, the founder of the Quaker movement, said: “Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them. Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one…”

Here at Springfield, we have a number of missions which we support as an entire meeting. We’re partners with COAT, for example, and we collect food for them on the first Sunday of every month. But people are also involved with COAT as individuals, too – as volunteers, or even raising money to help COAT by organizing benefit concerts, like Taiz Barata.

Some people are involved with FEMAP (Friends Emergency Material Assistance Program) at the Allen Jay house across the street. Other people raise funds at events like the Heart & Sole 5K Fun Run.

A mission project doesn’t need to have a big organization behind it, or need permission from anyone to get started – Belinda Schaal had a concern for the homeless which she has felt for several years, and started collecting warm hats and gloves and scarves.

If you want to do something on your own, that’s great! If you want to get involved with an existing organization, that’s no problem – there are hundreds to choose from, like the Shoebox Ministry, Friends Disaster Service or Quaker Men. Right here in the meeting, a group of women gather every month to laugh, pray and support mission work (the Sara R. Haworth Mission Circle, which is part of United Society of Friends Women International). Even our youth group gets involved with mission and service projects throughout the year.

Finding ways to follow Jesus’ commandment is easy – just step outside the door!

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