(This post was originally written by Nannette for her blog, Hope in the Healing this week. I thought it appropriate to share it here.)
My original title was, The Mission Trip: It’s not just about sightseeing…and I could have made friends and enemies with my title alone! Some could mistake it for “Shame on you! Didn’t you DO anything on your mission trip besides sightseeing?!” Then those that know me better will realize I am wanting to paint a bigger picture…a much bigger picture.
So, what do I mean? What is the purpose of a mission trip?
The Sweetheart took his first missions trip overseas when he was 18. He traveled to South America where he visited Chile, Argentina and Brazil. He went with an independent pastor who took him to see things up close and personal that would forever change his life.
Witnessing things such as satanic worship in a cemetery…at night…and out of sight…he was introduced to another world, one that most of us only read about in National Geographic back in the 1970’s.
He visited church after church, meeting amazing people who love God and are doing their best to serve Him. Privileged to witness and invite others to come to know Jesus Christ, right on the street, and get a positive response, was overwhelming.
What else did he do?
He went sightseeing. Experiencing the wonder of Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will forever be a highlight! He was privileged to bring back treasures such as a marble chess set from Chile and the ugliest sweater for me from Argentina that you have ever laid eyes on. I treasure it to this day! (I wish I had pictures to share but I am thousands of miles away from home and his “SLIDES”, yes, slides! For the younger generation, well, ask the older generation.)
Not to be outdone, when my oldest son, and his girlfriend-soon-to-be-fiancé-now-soon-to-be-wife-of-twelve-years were both 18, they took a two week missions trip to Alaska. Alaska? Yes, Alaska. America needs Jesus!
Kyle and Rachel visited wonderful missionaries who travel distances we cannot fathom to minister to people, and met native Alaskans who are planting churches all over the 49th, and largest, state in our great union.
Their group worked, they shared testimonies, sang, preached, whatever was asked or needed in those fourteen days, they were eager to serve.
Did I mention the sightseeing? Oh, my!
Not to be outdone, when our middle son, Kristopher was 17, he and his friend Christopher, (yes, two of them!) joined a group traveling to Bolivia. Again, they were able to meet people and see things that forever changed them. They worked, hard! They preached, sang, shared on the streets and they LOVED…hard.
They also came back with the most hideous, handmade, woven pants you have ever laid eyes on. I bet he had half a dozen pair in different colors and patterns! (Just being goofy here, thankfully they didn’t go witnessing dressed like that!)
Obviously a mission trip brings out the worst in taste. Unfortunately, I cannot recall a decent treasure that was brought back from this trip but the Sweetheart remembers well a beautiful leather briefcase that Kristopher had bought for him. He carried it for many years.
And…they went sightseeing…
If you follow my blog, you are aware that I call my boys My Three Sons, so you are expecting me to share The Baby’s mission trip. I will not disappoint you! Korey and Kristopher journeyed to Scotland and Ireland for six long weeks of a personal mission trip…funded by Korey and Kristopher.
They spent their own money but were blessed to stay in accommodations with the missionaries there in exchange for hard labor (smile).
They loved every minute of it.
(Okay, almost every minute. Korey is a little dramatic after helping to update the landscaping at the Bible School here. He is a musician, after all, not a gardener!)
And when in Rome…or in Glascow…well, doesn’t everyone try on a kilt? Kristopher does.
They also were at St. Andrews before and during the British Open!
Korey slept during the British Open…at the infamous St. Andrews….in Scotland.
No, seriously, he did.
They took pictures, and liberties, that would probably have gotten them in trouble had anyone been watching.
It was an amazing trip.
Korey then joined us in Riga, Latvia for six full months of ministry. He brought his guitar and sang his heart out, along with several other wonderful young people, helping to start churches in a very difficult region of the world. He met people he would never have gotten a chance to become acquainted with otherwise, people that have impacted his life.
Did Korey get to sightsee? Yes and no. His six months were more work than play. He did see most of Riga, Latvia, the capital of the Baltics. We took him to Tallinn, Estonia one weekend, where we are currently serving as short term furlough replacements, to see one of the most beautiful Old Town’s still in existence.
What was his most exciting sightseeing adventure? He was asked to conduct a music seminar in St. Petersburg, Russia for about five days, accommodations in the church with our beloved Missionary, Reverend William Turner. What a privilege! Yes, he was blessed to see a part of the world most will never see and make friendships with beautiful people.
These are examples. Examples I used because I know their stories, I can talk about them, share them freely.
But, what about the career missionaries? They are overseas for long, long periods of time, there cannot be that much to do, right? Isn’t it just one big, long vacation?
First of all, do not misunderstand and think I am touting the adventures of my family. We are not career missionaries. We were Associates in Missions, or what our organization calls AIM workers. Sort of part-time missionaries in some cases, and in others, self-sponsored, or church sponsored, missionaries who are going to fill a need. They may not have felt a calling, per se, to a certain country, but they want to do something. They see that people are needed, and they are available, willing and ready to go. Sometimes that is a precursor to a career missionary. You have to start somewhere and put your time in before you are promoted to a long term overseas assignment.
Yet, many AIM workers and associate missionaries sell everything they have too! Some, like us, could not have raised the money necessary to spend a year in Europe without selling our home, and most of our possessions. We do not regret it, even though we are not overseas full time.
Now, we personally go when we see a need, when we can raise the money to do so, and the rest of our time is spent traveling for Revival By Design.
Career missionaries have much more red tape to cut through before they are on location. It can take many months, or even years, to raise the support needed to stay on location.
Naturally, it is different in every organization.
I have read many books down through the years of missionaries blazing the trail. Of those working in the jungles of Africa, walking mile after mile, facing danger, literally, around every corner. I remember stories of other Godly souls who were able to be a part of seeing thousands saved in one tent crusade! They didn’t have email, cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Viber, Face Time, or Skype. They had snail mail and some were fortunate to have telephone communication…for about three minutes due to the expense…or the connection!
They definitely had things more difficult in many natural ways than missionaries do today, but they share many similarities that have NOT changed over the years.
Saying, “Goodbye’s” to loved ones.
Being homesick for their families.
Severe financial hardship. (Even though you are doing it for Jesus doesn’t mean you will be wealthy!)
And the most difficult of all…attacks from the enemy.
But I hear no complaints. I am sure there are some, even missionaries are human, but it is temporary. It may come from frustration, broken promises, and exhaustion.
What they DO experience, and I am sure 95% of them will agree, outweighs the struggle that accompanies the life of a missionary.
They witness lives changed, hearts broken and mended again, miracles, healings, signs and wonders!
They build churches in cities and countries where there has never been a church that taught Truth.
They light the way and bring the Gospel to the four corners of the world attempting to fulfill the scripture, “Go ye, into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15.
And this one, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14.
The short-term mission trip whets the appetite of the young and the old. Some will go back, they will commit and “Go ye…” Others that have been privileged to go for a short time will not go back on a permanent basis but the experience will live on in their hearts and they, in turn, give in another way…they financially support those that literally go! It’s in their heart; they’ve been there, witnessed things that impacted them, now they want to help.
They never forget.
So, do missionaries sightsee? Yes, they do, they should! Of course it isn’t JUST about the things they see and the places they get to go…if they are going for that benefit only, they won’t last. God will not bless it. But missionaries that sacrifice for the call…they enjoy the countries God has sent them to love and labor in. Another long-time missionary mentioned that it is often even a spiritual experience as they learn more about their country, the history, the people that call it home…it helps them so much to connect!
They take pictures and post them on social media so YOU can be blessed to see places that your feet may never wander through. You have helped them get there; they want to share it with you! (There are times and situations where missionaries MAY NOT post very many pictures, if any, of their congregation, house church, or people they are working with for privacy reasons.)
The associate missionary, no matter how long they are on location, are a blessing to the missionary that lives in the country all of the time. They bring refreshing, strength, fellowship and maybe even Oreo’s and Ziploc bags from the States!
Missionaries go to places we can only dream about, but they give way more than we will ever realize and sacrifice more than some of us would be willing to.
Be blessed to see pictures of them feeding children in Africa, putting shoes on kids in Haiti, singing on the streets in Europe and preaching to thousands in South America!
Pray for those that have, and will, answer the call to GO. Pray that they will be able to raise the funds necessary, that it will not be a financial burden on them for years to come, and that their hearts will not become weary with THE WAIT.
For those already on the field? They need your prayers even more!
Pray for those that have gone; that God would have His way in their lives. That they would hear HIS voice and know the direction He would have them to take.
Pray for strength for each new day, peace in every situation and for favor with their city, village or country.
Pray that the emptiness in their heart would be replaced by the love of God and a love for the people in their new homeland.
Don’t begrudge them a little enjoyment in the country within which they labor. Love them, support them financially, bless them when you can.