I mentioned in another post, 10 Awesome Things About Costa Rica, I absolutely love mission trips for many reasons. I really think every person should go on a mission trip (or a trip to do some type of humanitarian effort if you’re not into faith-based missions) at least once in their lifetime. It doesn’t have to be an international mission, but that’s generally what I’m writing about here. I went on my first trip when I was 25 years old and it really made a significant impact on my life. I wish I had the opportunity (or interest) in missions long before then, but I’m glad I didn’t pass up the opportunity to start then at least. Here’s what I love about missions (in no particular order):
- They give us a good dose of humility. As Americans, we live in a privileged nation. Sometimes I stand in the toothpaste aisle for at least 5 minutes trying to decide what type of toothpaste to buy because there are too many stinkin’ choices. I don’t understand why we need so many different kinds of toothpaste! We have everything we want and need at our disposal and can go shopping on a whim whenever we feel like it. We can buy groceries online and drive to the store and have someone bring them out to our fancy cars so we don’t have to go inside. We can drive through and pick up dinner and feed our families without ever having to dirty a dish. You get what I’m saying. These are things we take for granted on a daily basis. There are so many parts of the world that don’t have giant grocery stores, electricity, or clean water. There are hungry people, sick people, and people that don’t even have homes or access to life’s necessities. And then here we are complaining about the the waitress that messed up our order, the temperature in the restaurant not being to our liking, or the wifi connection not being fast enough. It really puts things in perspective when you visit somewhere and see the drastic differences in lifestyles that exist. All those places you see on TV or in movies where people face those kinds of struggles become a reality and you can’t help but take a good look in the mirror.
- Building relationships with people from other places is pretty cool. It amazes me how, even when you don’t speak the same language, you can still begin to build relationships with people. Though there are many drastic cultural differences as well as differences in lifestyles various regions of the world, we are all people. We all have the same basic needs and desires. We are all affected by genuine connections with others and we all just want to be loved and cared for. Sincere relationship transcends language barriers. How awesome to experience that!
- The relationships you build with your teammates are one of a kind. Going on this kind of trip with a group of people bonds you all together in an indescribable way. People that are complete strangers beforehand can become the closest of friends and even feel like family when it’s over. Although I don’t see some of the people I’ve been on mission trips with anymore, when I think of them, they still feel like family in my heart. The ones I do still see always give the warmest hugs.
- Having new experiences is always eye-opening… and fun. Immersing yourself in a new culture with new sights, new sounds, and new people is exhilarating. There’s just something so exciting about being somewhere new and learning all about our cultural differences and similarities.
- There is always unexpected beauty. I remember hearing about what we would see in Nicaragua from people that had made the trip before me, but they somehow forgot to mention how beautiful it was there. Though we visited areas that were very impoverished, the region in general was green and lush and the vegetation was beautiful. I was so surprised at what my eyes were seeing. We also got to visit an area that was overlooking an inactive volcano (I can’t remember what it was called – if anyone reading this knows, comment below) that was filled with water and you could see for miles and miles. It was so gorgeous! Haiti was also surprisingly beautiful. Though there was still devastation from the earthquake in 2010 including hundreds, maybe thousands of people living in tent cities, there was also lush vegetation and beautiful beaches. One of the most beautiful and serene sights I have ever seen were the rice fields in Haiti on a foggy morning. I had no idea we would see such beauty where there was so much poverty and devastation. Not to mention the memorable moments between people, the architecture, and so on… beauty is everywhere if you look for it.
- It does the heart good to give back. Helping others benefits both parties. There are so many people that need help. People practically in our own backyards, neighboring cities, across the U.S., and in other countries that don’t have access to the same kinds of assistance available in America. I think most people can agree it feels good to do things for others.
- It forces you to get outside your comfort zone. It’s easy to stay inside our bubbles and continue doing the things that give us warm fuzzies, but if that’s all we ever do then we’re not allowing ourselves opportunity for growth. I have to admit I love to chill at my house and drink my tea while eating my warm Starbucks blueberry muffin (what do they put in those things, crack?!) and only hang out with the people I already know and love. As an introvert, it can take me years to build strong relationships. I don’t like to do things that make me uncomfortable. But I can say that putting myself in situations that are outside my comfort zone have proved to be the most rewarding of experiences and caused me to grow more than I knew they ever would. Sometimes you have to work hard; harder than you’ve ever worked in your entire life. Sometimes you go to places that are more hot than you ever knew it could be (because you live in Texas, which is pretty much always hot) and it’s so humid you wake up sweating, shower sweating, and sleep sweating. But it doesn’t matter because it’s worth it to step outside yourself and to put others first, and in the end you’re a better person for it.
- I’m not gonna lie… I love the “free day.” Shopping in the local markets. Spending the day at the beach. Taking a boat ride to a private island. Sound appealing? Thought so.
- The memories stick with you forever. The relationships you build, the smiles you help put on kids’ faces, the prayers you speak out loud that may have a lasting impact on someone’s life. Those are memories you will cherish forever. Granted, some of the things you might see would be easier to forget. It would be easier to go back to our “normal” lives and not remember the people that are living in cinderblock homes with dirt floors and no windows and the ones living in tents with no clean water, electricity or air conditioning, and the children running around in tattered t-shirts with no shorts, underwear, or shoes on. But remembering those things helps to keep us grounded. It helps us remember what our purpose is here on earth… to spread the love of Christ and to help others.
When we left Nicaragua I had grown so attached to the people there, I wasn’t ready to leave. I was so overwhelmed with emotion, I cried almost the entire flight home. In Haiti the night before we left I laid in bed and couldn’t go to sleep for hours because I couldn’t stop crying. I was in love with the experience and broken for the people. Again, I wasn’t ready to go. I often think about those trips as well as the one to Costa Rica and can’t wait to have another such opportunity. I hope you are able to go on a mission trip at some point in your life and that you also have a life-altering experience.
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.'”
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