Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why I Love Missions Trips

Missions trips take many forms. I've been on teams that have visited slums, performed skits on the streets, witnessed to kids on spring break, built schools for deaf children, played basketball in the projects, hosted a Vacation Bible School, or combinations thereof.

Each of these trips have combined worship, work, witness, and (sorry, no "w" here) partnership with believers across the miles. For example, I just returned from our church's second project in the projects, which partnered us with a Brazilian and Hispanic church in Newark. In this case, partnership isn't even the right word--friendship (and pretty close friendship at that) is far more accurate. People from our churches are traversing up and down the East Coast to see one another at different points throughout the year, and of course all our teens have a dozen or more Newark Facebook friends.

So, here's what I love about missions trips: they provide a unique opportunity to experience the Christian life in its most distilled and undistracted form.

Here's what I mean. Over the course of, say, a week, the team works a spirit of worship and prayer. This is what God made us for! Check out Genesis 1 and 2 - we were made to be in relationship to God, and to one another, as we serve Him. Or consider the Great Commandment, Great Commission, or perhaps the New Testament as a whole. Or the life of Jesus. On a missions trip, all the pieces come together. And for a week or more, we get to experience what God made us for and what Jesus calls us to.

What I've found also is that this is a two-edged sword. Because a missions trip distills the Christian life down to its most basic priorities, we can easily experience angst as well as joy. We may see our sin and inability, our lack of genuine love, the no-worship zones of our hearts. But humility is a needed thing, and is the first step to seeing God forgive, transform, or soften, as the case may be.

I think these trips are especially important for young people, because it provides a template for what it means to serve Jesus Christ with all their lives. I've seen these trips serve as incredible turning points. I still remember the first trip I went on, how one of the principles was, "Before you do anything else, pray." So whenever there was a glitch, a problem, or an obstacle, we stopped to pray before we tried to work it out. That was formative; it stuck with me for the past 21 years.

One wisened teen said last week, when joy and enthusiasm for Jesus was running high, "It won't always feel this way. We'll have to go back to school and serve Jesus even when we feel all alone."


But I would add, "You know now, more than ever, that you're not alone. And that there is something more glorious to reach for."

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