Considering a Short-term Missions Trip?
As a missionary with more than a decade of experience on the field, I have led and worked with dozens of short-term missions groups from the U.S.A., Canada, and beyond.
I grew up hearing of “missions trips” and always had a desire to go to a foreign land and leave my blood, sweat, and maybe even a few tears behind when I left.
I have seen and experienced the mission trip phenomena from both sides of the table, experiencing first hand how missions trips can shape lives. It is something that everyone should experience.
My goal is to convince you to at least give it some intentional thought. I could share one of my tales recalling one of the several times that I have broken down during a three hour mountainous airport run in a hand-me-down church van that somebody donated years earlier.
We could also talk about the chaos of a van full of excited youth group kids fascinated at being stranded on the side of the road in a foreign country. Maybe I could mention the random hospital visits where teenagers needed an IV of fluids to avoid dehydration brought on from spending their parents money on candy bars and the famously different Mexican Coca-cola, and then wondering why Montezuma’s revenge claimed them as a victim.
The Best Missions Experiences
My favorite moments have been the ones where I have felt myself changing and growing while working alongside visitors who have come to give to our mission field.
I have seen groups of men come to help us build a church and seen them leave with different hearts. I’ve watched families who come and experience another side of life and Christianity, speaking volumes to who they are and what they are teaching their children. I have seen youth come and realize there is a bigger God out there then they had previously understood.
There are many arguments for and against taking a short-term missions trip. I think everyone should live through it. I want to share these 5 reasons why every church, family, youth group, or any other Christian alive and breathing should consider stepping out and heading out to see what God is doing in other parts of the world.
1. Change of Perspective
It is so easy to get bogged down in everyday work and life. The routine that we so crave when we are younger quickly becomes a prison that is marching us toward complacency. Small, trivial matters begin to take on too much importance, and our “first world problems” create unnecessary frustrations.
A week on the mission field could be just what the doctor ordered to help us reorganize our priorities. Discouragement, pressure, and even mis-placed ambition can often be remedied by a change of perspective. So next time you are frustrated that you only have one working HDMI cable that needs to be switched if you want to watch a Blu-ray instead of cable, maybe its time to sign up for a trip.
2. Personal Discovery
Few things are as powerful as discovering that you are capable of doing more than you previously thought. It is so fun to be put in a situation that tests your resolve and discover that you are made of some pretty tough material. A missions trip gives you the opportunity to test your limits. It is a great time to publicly share your faith, maybe even share in front of people, attempt to speak another language, or simply be willing to live alongside a community you don’t know very well.
Perhaps your limits will be physically tested. Mixing concrete by hand in the hot sun, or laying brick until your arms want to fall off, whatever the case may be is challenging work. I think it is pretty much impossible to go on a short-term missions trip to a foreign country and not discover something new about your self. You may uncover a gift or passion will that will change your life forever.
I left for Mexico for a summer long internship eleven years ago, and I’m still here today. Trust me, you never know what you might find.
3. The Food!
I love eating. Eating internationally is a two-headed monster. The best meals that I have ever had have been in countries outside of the United States. When groups visit our ministry in Tepic, I feel a personal responsibility to ensure they will experience some glorious cuisine. I have been the pioneer and gone on ahead of them to sample, taste, and if necessary, sacrifice my body to know which spots to avoid.
I have tasted the most glorious, fresh chorizo quesadillas, carne asada, tamales, tortas, intestine, and even tacos made from cow brain, all in an effort to better the experience of my fellow man (so I tell myself). Seriously though, eating in another land can be a blast, just make sure your guide has been there and done that. I can testify first hand that typhoid and salmonella are real and can still be had for the price of some cheap street food.
4. The Experiences
When you work with a ministry located in a different country, there are bound to be some unforgettable experiences. When you see a group of Christians singing a song to the same God you serve in another language, something powerful happens in your soul. You recognize that God is bigger and doing even more than you had imagined.
When you make a friend who speaks a completely different language, it opens your eyes to how big the world is. Then, there are the fun inconveniences of foreign travel. The breakdowns, the tropical rain storms, the cultural misunderstandings, it all adds up to something unforgettable and helps form the character of the person you are becoming.
Okay, I’ll admit it; this is just like the food reason, but I didn’t want to say food again, so let’s call it culture this time.
Seriously though, walking down the street in a foreign country, observing culture, sampling the local fare, it’s really fun. Breads, coffees, fruit, crickets, ants, worms, tortillas, its all there and you have to give it a try!
The best thing about culture is those who make it. As you are walking down that street in a foreign country buying trinkets and local delicacies, it is a truly life-changing experience to interact with and love on the people behind the culture. It is a unique opportunity to blend and serve, to connect with another human being from a completely different background and way of life and to enjoy simply being human together.
Building Community Through Service
The body of Christ is at its strongest when we can all come together. Despite all the differences that want to categorize or separate us, when we discover we are one and the same in the eyes of our Creator, our cultural differences are enjoyed and celebrated. The relationships you build and the memories you experience are an absolute blast.