Mission trips are worthwhile, there’s no question in my mind. Here are 5 reasons why:
5. To experience a new culture
Matthew 28:19-20 | Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
I’ll never forget the first time I crossed the Mexican border. I had been stuck in a crammed van for what felt like an eternity. My bladder was full, and I was getting sick of sitting in that darn van. We crossed the border, hopped on the highway (which was probably one of the bumpiest roads I had ever been on) and travelled through an urban area of Tijuana. We soon exited the city, and our surroundings drastically changed. Silence swept through our van as we stared outside. Sheet metal shacks (some cardboard ones!), trash everywhere, stray dogs, tattered clothing hanging on rusty clotheslines, poorly kept dirt roads, abandoned cars. It was a slum. The first slum I had ever encountered first-hand. I was shocked. What a small view of the world I had! My eyes were opened to what life was like for some outside of the United States, and I didn’t know how to respond…
It was only after much reflection, and a pivotal conversation with my pastor, that I realized what God was showing me. He wants me, us, to be able to go anywhere and share the gospel. He wants us to be able to learn a culture, understand people there, and let His power guide us as we share His love with them. Part of going on a mission trip is learning what that process looks like. Literally learning how to go to another culture and letting the gospel shine through us. What an experience.
4. To go outside your comfort zone
Exodus 4:13 | But Moses said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”
In Exodus chapter 4, God calls Moses to Lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. During Moses’ first encounter with God, do you know how many different excuses he makes to God to try to get out of his calling? FOUR. Four times, in one conversation, God essentially told Moses that he had no option but to go out of his comfort zone to follow God’s call. So Moses obeyed. And, well, you know how that story ends.
God encourages us to take steps of faith, steps outside of what’s comfortable, to serve Him. When Christians go to a foreign place to serve Him, you better believe it’s going to be uncomfortable. Simple things like cell phone service, running water, plumbing, hot food are often stripped from us when we go on a mission trip. And guess what. It’s a good thing. It gets us out of our comfort zone, and that’s exactly where God wants us… in a place where we have to trust Him.
3. To experience true community
Romans 12:10-16 | Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
The community that is created during a mission trip is unique. Why? Because you and those you’re with are there with the same goal in mind. You’re in one accord, in one spirit, united for a common cause. And this is not just any cause. This cause has an eternal impact. The result: an eternal bond. In other words, you get a whole bunch of new best friends.
At the end of an annual mission trip my church goes on, we have a debrief time where people share how they saw God work on the trip. These tear-filled debriefs are an extremely powerful indicator of the kind of community that is created when people unite to “love one another with brotherly affection” and to “live in harmony with one another.” In that debrief, we get a tiny glimpse into how things are supposed to be: Perfect. Harmonious. United.
2. To learn how to serve others
1 John 3:16 | By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
Mission trips are always centered around one thing: service. Whether it be building a home for someone, or simply making lunches for a poverty-striken area, the name of the game is the same—It’s all about service. Anyone can serve, you don’t need to be a Christian to do that. But what makes a Mission trip different is the “why”. Christians go on mission trips because they understand one simple truth: Jesus did the ultimate act of service and love by dying in our place to save us from eternal death. Christians emulate his life by serving others.
On a mission trip, you’ll serve others in a unique, challenging, and usually rewarding way because, odds are, you’ll have to sacrifice something to go on the trip. Money, time, your well-being, comfort… you name it. It’s out of that unique sacrifice that we begin to understand just how much Jesus did for us. On a mission trip, your eyes are opened to a new level of service, a new level of loving strangers that we didn’t know we were even capable of loving. Service and sacrifice point us to Christ, and it’s profoundly life changing.
1. It will change your life
Romans 12:2 | Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
People who go on mission trips rarely come back unchanged. I always tell my students, “You can’t undo what you experienced on a mission trip,” because what happens on these trips will impact their life, forever. They’ll always have a special place in their hearts for the trip they went on.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of seeing someone give their life to Christ while on a mission trip. Literally right before my eyes, I was witnessing the Holy Spirit enter into this student. God became so real to him, and he was forever changed by it. He came home from that trip a follower of Christ, and I got to see it unfold! What a blessing! A couple weeks after the trip I remember him telling me that everything was different. He saw the world through a completely different lens. His priorities, his friendships, his attitude, were revolutionized. He was no longer “conformed to this world,” and there was no question that he had changed. That mission trip forever impacted him, because Jesus had been revealed to him.
Make no mistake—a mission trip is not just about God changing the lives of those you’re serving. It’s also about God changing you. That’s why you need to go.