Recently, a group of my friends were discussing their upcoming summer plans. I overheard many of my Jewish friends making plans to travel to various summer camps and beaches for the hot summer months and could easily relate, as I am preparing to do the same. The responses from my Christian friends, however, really caught my attention.
“I’m spending one month in Tanzania and spreading the gospel to the hapless villages there,” said one of my friends.
“I’m traveling to Russia and volunteering with the Vocational Bible School to repair one of the orphanages there,” added another devout Christian.
“I’m flying to Haiti with a church group to rebuild the fallen communities and teach the Bible,” mentioned another friend.
While my religious friends have the same opportunities to explore summer camps and shopping centers over their summer breaks, they have chosen to represent their faith internationally and overseas. Rather than spending their money on new summer fashion trends, they have spent their entire year hosting fundraisers and awareness projects in hopes of buying plane tickets to volunteer at their particular locations. Some of them travel with church groups or their families, and others are solely by themselves in devastated countries. Whether their journeys are organized or spontaneous, my friends have been enthusiastically anticipating the mission’s trips that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Considering that the primary purpose of mission’s trips is to spread the gospel in order to spiritually save the souls of others, I wasn’t surprised that my synagogue doesn’t offer such experiences. Judaism does not emphasize the idea of sharing texts in the Bible to surrounding third-world countries, nor arranges volunteering opportunities in Tanzania or Russia to promote G-d. I know this because I’ve tried looking for an experience like that of a mission’s trips. I’ve researched every Jewish and Interfaith program for opportunities to share my faith with those in need of spiritual healing. I’ve called numerous faith groups, varying from student cultural programs to the Jewish federation, but have yet to find the ideal mission’s trip for me.
I am truly in awe of the numerous churches and Christian centers that offer students with the opportunities to travel world-wide to promote their faith. Pastors and administrators spend endless hours and effort organizing successful journeys in order for their congregants to step outside of their comfort levels and see their faith shine through in every country. Since the concept of mission’s trips has been created and pursued, Evangelical Christianity seems like the fastest growing religion today. Even after all the flights are booked and the money is raised to travel, the foundation of mission’s trips still remains clear: faith is needed all around the world.
There must be some aspect of volunteering internationally that bothers Judaism, but I have yet to see any problems with putting a little fundraising effort into a life-altering idea. Along with churches, there are Jewish communities all over the world that could use some spiritual healing. Synagogues promote the concept of “Tikkun Olam,” or preparing the world, by placing a few recycling bins in their front lobbies or hosting a canned food drive. While I applaud these local efforts, I have yet to ever leave my comfort level in regards to representing my faith. The idea of “Tikkun Olam” has no given boundaries, and we can create the impactful experiences that not only sustain our faith, but take it to an even greater level. Like Evangelical Christianity, promoting our faith is not limited to any one zip code. We can begin slowly, first sharing our faith to local communities, then stepping outside the comfort and boundaries of our current cities to spread our morals all over the world. Judaism can reach every corner of the earth if there are enough faithful people to travel beyond their comfort levels and cover those distances. Any Christian missionary could tell you that the goal of spiritually enlightening people has a far greater effect than the unfamiliarity of the particular country. Nothing stands in the way of a motivated, faithful Christian missionary who wants to cater to a community in need of spiritual healing. I can only pray that Judaism will have the same mindset one day. Along with Evangelical Christians, we all have the ability to be missionaries of our faiths.
Though my synagogue does not spread Judaism to Tanzanian communities, I only hope that one day, we will reach that destination. We have every opportunity to promote our faith in every community, nationally or overseas, but must have the same motivation and courage to take our faith to that level. We cannot allow financial and mental issues hinder us from sharing our faith to the world. We can either choose to remain active in our local communities or be inspired to take our faith to the next level, but until we make that choice, the world will continue to be in need of spiritual healing. Communities could always use a few more missionaries of every religion, and we have the ability to represent our faiths everywhere. Only then will the world truly be a brighter and more faithful place in which to live.