As you may have noticed by now, I am keeping to the theme of missions this week, in light of my upcoming trip to Costa Rica. You can read the whole story about why I am taking this particularly trip here if you missed it.
As I was thinking about leaving on Sunday, I started remembering some of the other mission trips I have been on. When our children were young, my husband and I determined that, if we had the resources to do so, we would make sure each of our children left United States soil at least once before they left our home. We felt it important for so many reasons. In the past five years, I have had the privilege to take my oldest daughter to Ukraine and my middle daughter to Guatemala. We saw God worked in an amazing way so that our whole family could go to Haiti. I feel so blessed to have been able to take these trips. Not only for the sake of my children, but for mine.
You see short-term mission trips, while definitely a blessing to those who are on the receiving end of our help and supplies, are perhaps an even bigger blessing to those of us who are on the giving end.
Why do I believe this?
Here are a few reasons–
1. We get out of our comfort zone. Oh, how so many of us love our comfort zones. So much so that many of us aren’t willing to go somewhere where we might be uncomfortable or hot or thirsty or have to work or can’t speak the language. It freaks us out and we exaggerate the awfulness of it all. But when we actually go, we see it isn’t so bad, after all.
2. It helps us gain perspective. If we live in the U.S. (or any other wealthy place) we can lose sight of the fact that the luxuries we take for granted are not worldwide. Taking a short-term trip shows us that there are actually people who live without computers (gasp!), cars, and running water. There is a whole world of people who have never been taught how to read or write. People that somehow make a plastic grocery bag full of rice and beans sustain their families for an entire month. There are children who live in institutions without the loving care of a family. Taking a mission trip opens our eyes to the real world that lies just outside our little sheltered place where we live most of our lives.
Let me add here that, while I believe we can find many places to minister here in the U.S. that will help us gain perspective, most countries do not have the welfare programs and government helps that we have here and so it is generally far worse conditions in many lands on this earth for those living in poverty.
3. It kindles our heart for the lost and renews our dedication to sharing the good news of the gospel both abroad and at home. Taking a trip reminds us of just how many people do not know the Lord personally. Many people have never even heard the gospel. Actually sharing the good news with lost souls is such a privilege. Sometimes we forget that in our day to day lives.
On one of my trips, I was one of the oldest team members and so I was the one they picked to actually sit down with the nationals and share the gospel, through an interpreter. I was so nervous. But I did it and it became more and more natural. And I was reminded that sharing the Lord with others isn’t as hard as I make it out to be.
4. We make incredible memories and new friends. From the poignant to the crazy, memories abound on these trips. I remember vivid moments of frustration and fear. But I remember many more moments of satisfaction and joy. On each trip I made new friends, some of which I am still in touch with today.
5. We touch the lives of others. The photos above are all from my previous mission trips. Each one of these faces brings back beautiful memories. A connection of hearts was made, if even for the briefest moment. There are a few I still think of and occasionally pray for today–the beautiful young girl in a Ukrainian orphanage for the mentally handicapped, even though she didn’t seem to belong there; the energetic twin boys in Haiti who just loved my son; and the laughing, silly 2 year olds that I would spend my mornings with in Guatemala, helping to get them dressed for the day and giving them hugs. So many more encounters that I could fill up several pages worth (I won’t!) but as I write, my heart is filled with such thanksgiving that I was able to meet these precious souls, if even for just a few meager minutes of my life.
6. We have the opportunity to trust the Lord in the fearful moments and watch Him work. From how to raise the funds to go to some very frightening moments in airports, God has been so faithful to me through these trips. I honestly believe if we never take a risk we can never truly see Him work. Let’s face it, if we are average people in the first world, we have most of our needs and many of our desires met every day — food, water, clothing, and shelter are a given for most of us. Sure, we may have to choose ramen noodles over steak, but we aren’t starving. We rarely remove ourselves from this comfortable place to even be able to watch the Lord work. Of course, sometimes things beyond our control happen, such as accidents and diseases and we are thrust into that world quite suddenly. But a short-term mission trip is a way to give up a little control and quite purposely put your life in the Lord’s hands, if even for a week.
And so if you can find a trip, you should go! If the Lord’s been tugging at your heart about the trip with your church, then call today and get more details. If you heard about a trip a friend is going on and it keeps coming to mind, then do some checking online. But I would just encourage you, in keeping with my post yesterday, to make sure it is with an agency that keeps sharing the gospel as their number one priority.
Anyone can give food and shelter, but only Christians can give the life-giving water that changes lives for all eternity.