My journey with Christian mission trips started several years ago when I took my first trip to South Africa from Orlando. I've been blessed with the opportunity to travel to many parts of the world (usually for business) but it was an altogether different experience for me to travel on mission for God.
Initially, I looked at the cost of the trip (~$3600) and thought, "There's no way I can afford to do something like this". Not only was it a toll financially for us but it was also one of logistics. "How in the world will this work when I have a family of 7 that needs me?" For some reason, though, God kept prompting me to look into it and I'm so glad I took that one step of faith.
Even before I stepped foot on foreign soil, the Lord used my missions experience to mold and grow me. Great teachers shared on the importance of serving others in and with dignity. I wrestled with God on various fears I had (from leaving my family to not making a difference to not being able to raise the funds needed to go). Ultimately, I laid all of those at the altar and Jesus gave me freedom in return. Before that first trip, I also repented of some buried sin in my life and invited the Lord's forgiveness to wash over me.
Jesus grew my faith in Him, in myself, and my faith in my family through my missions experience. Three weeks before our team was scheduled to leave Orlando, I was still $900 short of what I needed to raise. I had reached out to friends and family and many of them had already supported me in this. Seemingly, from out of nowhere, someone I had not even asked for help decided to cover the remaining funds to make my trip possible. Doubt had started to creep in but in that moment I was reminded that the Lord had called me to this trip. He proved Himself faithful to make it happen and that final gift was so reaffirming to me of that.
My faith in myself grew as I started to realize the power of the Holy Spirit living inside me. I used to question my "spiritual-ness" because I didn't memorize scripture, speak from a pulpit, or bring others to Jesus. This first mission trip changed my perspective completely though. There is no level of spirituality that qualifies or disqualifies us for this type of work or this type of experience. It simply is the YES in our hearts that qualifies us. God literally does the rest and leads us step by step into the promised land for which He has called us. On this trip, I had the opportunity to witness physical and spirtual healings, pour into adolescent boys that were hungry for a word of encouragement from a mother figure, and walk the streets of poverty-stricken townships sharing the love of Jesus in a way I never would have had the courage to do at home. This experience changed who I thought I was and started me on a journey of truly understanding who I am in Christ. The gift of that... well; that is priceless.
In South Africa with members of my team as well as a new friend in South Africa
As for my family, everyone survived 10 days without me. My husband (who was already so supportive) gained a new found appreciation for all I do to keep us moving in the right direction as a family and my children didn't seem to miss a beat. I did miss my family while I was gone and my fondness of my role as mom and wife multiplied with the distance. I came home renewed, refreshed, and focused on making an impact for Christ within my home, my neighborhood, and my city.
So you see, friends, when I sometimes get the question of "why missions?", my response is always the same. Are we called to go and make disciples of all nations? Yes, absolutely. We are also called to love our neighbors. One is not exclusive of the other. What if, for many of us, our call to love our neighbors is more fully understood after we travel to another nation with the goal of discipleship? This is what missions has been about in my life-- a marrying of these two calls.
What about you? Are you ready for a faith journey?