A Mission Stay
This summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to be a leader on a mission trip.
I didn't really go on a 'trip', considering I didn't even go out of my city, but I was still so humbled by how much I underestimate God's presence and power.
When I came back from college at the beginning of the summer, I knew I needed to serve. My lack of giving back through my last school year was hurting my spiritual life and was just not good for the Kingdom of God. I never really tried to get involved in service in the school year, I just wanted to wait until summer when I would get to go on trips with my church and be a leader.
So I went back to my church and asked my youth group leader about the mission trips.
And I was met with disappointment.
My church has been going to a place in Lake Wales, Florida for a while now. All the youth group goes and it's become a tradition and semi-indoctrination. I love going on those mission trips because of the organization, spiritual growth, and sense of community we all gain. I learned how to fix a roof, paint a house, and sleep in really uncomfortable positions on those trips.
So weren't we going this year?
Why weren't we even leaving our city?
Our 'mission trip' would be in Winston-Salem, where all of the jobs sites were no more than ten minutes from my house.
I know that all of God's children are called to serve, but doesn't Jesus say "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15). If Jesus says go into all the world, I'll pack my bags for Him. But just going down the street? Is that what the verse also means?
I was super jaded and debated even going. It wasn't exciting. Our trip wouldn't be met with 14 hours in a bus- playing games and watching movies. We wouldn't have cabins where all the girls would sleep in one, and all the boys in another. Something would be lost and no one seemed to care.
But I got ready for the mission trip.
I was blessed to be in some meetings and see all the work that went on behind the scenes. We had a beautiful and creative team that worked so hard to promote awareness in our community for things the city had been struggling with for decades. The leaders worked hard to educate everyone on the trip about the city and give them a new heart for their home.
I quickly learned that God called us to be lights in our communities just as much as he calls others to go to India and preach the gospel. Even though learning about our city might not be as exciting as fixing a roof in Florida.
We stayed at a college in Winston-Salem where about four of us would sleep in a dorm room suite. The middle schoolers really liked that they were staying where older kids usually lived, while I was missing my big bed and good wifi.
I was put in a room with three middle school girls, which quickly became four because of how social my girls were. By the first night, I was already calling on Jesus to give me strength and help me get through the week.
If my mission trip taught me anything, it was that God will equip His children with all the strength they need to do His work.
He gave me grace for His people, a heart for my community, and passion on the work sites.
The work day began around 7 am when all of the campers and leaders met in a church to get breakfast. Then we would separate into work cites, get to work, meet up for lunch, go back to work, go to dinner, worship in a huge amphitheater in the middle of the city, go back to the college, play some sport game, have a meeting, and go to sleep around 1-4 AM.
Honestly, I don't remember half the week.
As a first time leader, I was met with such humility and awe. I used to be the kid that would ask 'how many more minutes' or 'what is going on', and instead of getting frustrated when they asked for the fifth time that day, I just treated all the kids like adults and told them what I knew.
The trip didn't go off without a hitch. A lot of problems go on behind the scenes of a mission trip that the campers will never know about. I had a panic attack on the site one day, so I just put on my sunglasses and a fake smile to hide my tears. Half the campers got locked out of their dorm rooms, I think someone was left at the college because they didn't want to wake up, and many couples were formed and dispersed in the duration of the five days.
But God had His hand on everything on the trip and gave grace and joy to all the participants.
I doubted that not going far away from home would still have a positive impact on the youth group. Sometimes I doubt that God can do great things when we don't actually go somewhere. Like His presence will only be with us if we risk our lives or drive 14 hours. But He was there at that camp every day.
He was when we worshipped after a long day of working. I have never felt so energized or ready to praise my King. His presence was so apparent to all of the campers and leaders, and even to the people in the city just walking near the theater.
He was with the leaders when we had to deal with some crazy aspects of the trip. I love all the girls who I looked over and I hope I had a positive impact on them as well. He gave everyone peace, humility, and energy.
He was on the worksites when we gave middle schoolers nail guns. Getting a middle schooler to do anything they don't really want to do should be an olympic sport. I honestly don't know how we accomplished anything.
He was with me when I came into the mission trip doubting if I would learn anything. He taught me so much about being a leader, a servant, and His child. I was able to completely surrender to Him and let Him guide me through some tough moments.
I suggest going on any and all mission trips you can. Some of my favorite memories are from the trips I've taken with my youth group. But I also have learned that it really isn't about the 'trip' but about the 'mission'. My heart grew so much after watching God's plans fall into place and seeing how He used His children for His glory.
Thank you to Love Out Loud for giving me the opportunity to serve with and for y'all.
Thank you to Chris Dolan for trusting me to take care of children even though I am one.
And thank you to God for giving me the heart to serve.