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BWAP 2023: What the Great Commission Didn’t Tell Me ~ Kevin Lee

During each night of the trip, a pair of us led a devotional on a chosen topic. Out of the topics Nii Addo provided us beforehand, Mei and I chose the topic named: “The Great Commission and the Ethics of Christian Service.” I had no idea what the Great Commission was, but the latter part of the topic was what intrigued me. I had never thought too deeply about the service trips that I would see people go on, and I thought it would be a good way to learn new things and prepare myself before I went to Puerto Rico.

As a person with no context on how the Great Commission had been used throughout history to justify colonialism, I simply began to analyze the text. With my Bible study mode on, I began to digest each word Jesus said. The Great Commission refers to a selection of passages in the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus calls his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20). As I usually do, I assumed the authority of this particular text in the Bible and planned out an entire speech on what it means to make disciples and what it might look like, drawing from as many passages I could find relating to it.

What regrettably happened during this process was that I forgot the latter part of the topic, which is what actually intrigued me to choose it in the first place. I started to confine the work that we would be doing in Puerto Rico solely in the lens of the Great Commission, not comprehending the breadth of things to consider when discussing as complex a topic as Christian service.

During the first devotional, I was struck by my shortcomings. Here I was, having written out an entire sermon on what the Great Commission is without acknowledging that the devotional was a group discussion or considering the Great Commission in the context of ethical Christian service. Devotionals led by others covered more contextually and geographically relevant topics such as creation care, justice and complicity, and building community, which made me engage in both Scripture and other readings they provided more empathetically and holistically.

So I made a last-minute decision to scrap 80% of what I prepared and let the group speak instead. I saw conversations flourishing, and though some opinions and ideas were quite uncomfortable for me to hear, I still sat and tried my best to listen. Throughout all the devotionals, I had to face challenges to what I originally imagined this trip would be like. What if telling the gospel isn’t the most effective way to spread the gospel? What if it is actually much more meaningful to deeply consider the situations of the people of Puerto Rico than to be sitting in a room immersed in Scripture? What if doing justice to all the harm our ancestors have done to colonies like Puerto Rico is just to gently and lowly serve the people in whatever way possible?

In many ways, these challenges that I faced were an extension of my experience at Pres House. We have a culture of deeply appreciating complexity, whereas I tend to prefer forging out an answer to all questions. But through BWAP, I saw the beauty of the unexplainable, unfathomable, and incomprehensible, and not only stop at its sight, but do something about it. I realized that in the unknown is where God inspires us, and where we constantly work towards challenging our assumptions and stretching our empathy.

Kevin Lee is a sophomore studying computer science and information science.

Read the rest of the BWAP 2023 reflections:

Laura Hyde ~ “Unexpected Connections”
Lauren Pettis ~ “From Learning to Living”
Lydia Larsen ~ “The Cost of Paradise”
Aurora Kuelbs ~ “Deep Roots”
Mei Hippe ~ “Deep Love”
Kevin Lee ~ “What the Great Commission Didn’t Tell Me”
Madelyn Peppard ~ “Three Kings Day, a Four-Day Celebration”

Learn more about our partners for BWAP 2023:

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance – Puerto Rico
Techos Pa’ Mi Gente

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