I recently had the opportunity to go on my first mission trip and first time out of the country! Before I went on the trip I kept researching articles about mission trips. Most of the things showing up were why not to go on a mission trip and how harmful they are. That was not very encouraging to read when you are looking forward to going on your first mission trip! I read the articles and they talked about how harmful it was for people to build relationships with others when they would leave after a couple of weeks. They talked about how a country’s own community should be the one to take care of them. Some of these articles did make some good points. However, after actually going on the trip I respectfully disagree with their opinions. I believe a mission trip is a worthy endeavor for anyone who has the opportunity to go on one. Here are my top 5 reasons why:
- Brings people closer to God. The mission trip I went on was to Mexico and we were there to assist the local churches in Morelia in building the kingdom of God. We did this through helping start the physical building of a Bible College and helping the local churches evangelize. This opportunity really brought me and others on the mission trip closer to God. I was on the team that did kid’s ministry and church ministry. It was amazing the sense of God that came through this experience. A friend from the trip and I were talking about how close you could feel to God in another country. There was such a sense of God in every church service. It showed us that God truly is all over the world and with you wherever you go. We truly got to experience Joshua 1:9. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
I believe this was true not only for us but for the people of Morelia. We got to meet many Christians from multiple churches in the community. We got to break bread (or corn tortillas) with wonderful believers in the community. They got to see what faith was like for people in Estados Unidos. All of us got to worship together and have experiences with God that transcended all languages. While I was not a local, I imagine that they must have felt amazed too at how God can allow people to connect from different countries without even speaking the same language.
- Grows your faith. My first reason for going on a mission trip speaks to this but there is so much more I could add. I went to five church services while in Morelia. We worshipped in so many different churches. The best church service we had was in a church building that was still being constructed. The pastor had started the church many years ago and faced resentment from the community. The burned the first building that was constructed to the ground. This pastor spent years trying to reach this resistant community and his faithfulness to God was so strong. Some people would see a building with a tarp for the backdrop for the pastor. We saw love – a work of God’s love and one man’s faith that God would bring this community to Him.
A smaller amount of our team went to this church services. On the way up the mountain to go there we sang worship songs together and prayed for the service. Almost immediately upon entrance to the church you could feel the presence of God. This church chose to start with altar call right after song service. What happened next was amazing! Everyone was started praying and you could feel the Holy Spirt. There were a couple of us who were on our knees at the altar until the closing of the sermon and then we continued to pray for I don’t know how much longer. Almost everyone in the building was up at the altar praying. I honestly do not know what half of the needs of the people were because I am not fluent in Spanish. I do know that we left with a new family. I do not think I have ever given so many hugs in my life. All of us in the building kept hugging one another and we ended up not leaving until 10:00 at night. It was an amazing experience that truly showed that when we have faith God can do amazing things.
- Teaches you to “go with the flow”. Anyone who knows me knows that I love to be in control of everything. I carry my planner with me everywhere and start off each day outlining my entire day. I may be in social work (which definitely demands flexibility) but I enjoy the ability to control everything that goes on. Mission trips are not about control! They are about God leading you to the right place at the right time. One of the missionaries told us at the beginning, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken.” (By the way, seriously considering having this framed on my wall). He was 100% right. By the second day of the trip I let go of any expectations I had of the trip and went with being late, being early, not going places, and going other places. It was amazing the relief you experience when you just go with what God has for you.
The great thing was we really were always at the right place at the right time. There was one time when we were praying for people by the Children’s Hospital and Public Hospital in Morelia. We had handed out all of the food, juice, coloring books, and tracts we had. Our whole group was leaving and we walked by a car with a child laying in the back seat who was very ill. We found out that she had been turned away from the hospital and had suffered from a brain aneurysm. They were just getting ready to leave and we all happened to walk by at that time. Our whole group had the opportunity to pray for this young girl and her family. I do not know the outcome of her story and continue to pray for her. What I do know is that we ended up “going with the flow” and all of us were able to be with a family who needed comfort at that moment.
- Takes everyone out of their comfort zone. I think there is evidence all throughout this post that we were all taken out of our comfort zone. It is great to be out of your comfort zone! When you are out of your comfort zone, growth happens. This is where you learn you have gifts you never knew you had. You discover a boldness within you that you did not know about. For me this was shown to me through prayer. I usually try to show God’s love by lending a listening ear, taking people places, or finding time for people. It usually is not through praying with people. On this trip I prayed with so many people I lost count. Not only was this out of my comfort zone but I did not even speak the language of most of the people I prayed with! I learned so much about the comfort of prayer through this experience though.
On the last day of our trip I had a really unique experience of being taken out of your comfort zone. We were in Mexico City for a final day in Mexico. We had all just ate our last meal of tacos in Mexico and were walking to the bus to take off for the airport. As we walked I noticed a barefoot girl sitting on a bench, smoking a cigarette, and what looked to be crying. I felt like I should stop and pray with her. I looked up and several other friends had stopped walking and were looking at her. We all grabbed one of the missionaries and asked him to translate. We talked to this girl and found out she was far from family, in a city and country not her own. She had so much despair inside of her. We offered to pray with her and all hugged her. This woman prayed the sinner’s prayer before we left to get on the bus. What if we had all not stepped out of our comfort zone? Since I have been back in the United States I have found that I enjoy praying with people and have had the opportunity to pray with several. Who knows if I would have done that had I not gone on this trip?
- Everyone gets to learn about a new culture. The last reason is an obvious one but also a not so obvious one. When you think of going on a mission’s trip, you think about how different the culture of the country you are going to be will be. However, your difference in culture can educate people in that country on what your country is like. I got to learn all about the Mexican culture but many locals got to learn some about my culture. While in Mexico I became friends with a girl at the church that sponsored us. We met on Monday and talked every day until I left on Friday. She talked to me in English and I talked to her in Spanish. She told me all kinds of things about Mexico (and taught me more Spanish). I told her all kinds of things about Wisconsin. We built a wonderful friendship and got to learn so many new things. This was such an amazing experience and she became a dear friend to me.
Right now I think this is one of the most important things we can do right now in the United States. All over the media people are slamming each other based on their culture or skin color, riots are breaking out, and people are killing each other. A mission trip is the ultimate experience to learn about the good of a culture. We are being taught so much about the bad of a culture that we see people of that culture negatively. Maybe going on a mission trip is an opportunity for us to show everyone that people can get along across cultures and overcome cultural barriers. Maybe you cannot go on a mission trip overseas but maybe you can do one within your state or country. I strongly advise you to go for it. Get out of your comfort zone, learn about new cultures, learn about God, grow your faith, and “go with the flow”. I leave you with this final verse. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20KJV)