You go on a mission trip with the proposed purpose of making a difference in someone else’s life. You come back with the profound knowledge that it’s your life that has been changed. My recent mission trip to Kenya proved this to me – again. In 1999, I went with a group to Honduras and that trip resulted just the same. Yes, we did some good, (building homes in Honduras and helping a church to grow in Kenya). But it is the personal changes that a mission trip creates that validates us going.
As I preparing for this trip, I honestly had mixed feelings. The total cost for 14 of us going on this trip was pretty high between airfare, lodging, vehicle rentals, food, and the donations to the church and orphanage while there. I was calculating this cost and thinking – could not that money be spent here in Hawkinsville? Was this a glorified vacation with a “mission” theme so that we could all rationalize the expense in our own minds? I was leaving behind a fellow that I had just met that had not eaten in two days – would not helping him be better than me taking this trip?
But by then, the plans were made, the money was paid, and the tickets were bought. So I went. And I can conclusively say – I am glad I did! I believe the change, the focus, in me has been permanently altered. A mission trip forces you to get out of your day to day life with your day to day perceptions. We see the same thing everyday. We talk the same politics everyday. We see the same needs everyday, and we become oblivious to them all.
Let me tell you of the trip:
We arrived in Kenya, got settled in, and then immediately went to Pastor Shaddrack’s Tea Village Church. This particular Tea Village is owned by one of the tea company plantations. They provide housing (a block house with no running water) to the family for helping to harvest tea. There were several hundred houses in this village. This church is a new church and we were going to help “disciple” the 30-40 members so that the church could grow deeper in it’s knowledge of Christian ideals. Personally, I was assigned to teach a two hour lesson on Prayer.
We also planned on teaching many Bible lessons to the children of the community. The children are the key to getting the adults to show up. On the first day, dozens of children arrived and probably 6 or 7 adults. We taught Bible stories to the children. We played with the children. And we taught our discipleship lessons to the older youth and adults that showed up. Then in the afternoon, we went to help with an orphanage that serviced 54 children. Most all of these children were orphaned due to the Aids epidemic that is in the land. BesAnn, a young 24 year old woman, cares daily for these children providing 3 meals and Bible lessons. She is a remarkable lady. Her only help is from a lady who helps cook and also some help from Pastor Shaddrack and his wife.
Both the tea village and the orphanage screamed poverty. The children had next to nothing. Some had shoes, others did not. Some had decent clothes, others had ragged garments. For the most part, they seemed happy (especially with all of us strange white people there, they kept wanting to see under our shirt sleeves to see if we were really this color everywhere!). We saw poverty, we saw situations that are unthinkable – yet they exist. It changes you. It makes you thankful, grateful, and humble at your life experience compared to theirs. It shows you what the courage, faith, and willingness of one 24 year old can do – it can change lives. Am I changing lives? Am I making a difference? A Mission trip FORCES you to ask yourself these questions.
We even witnessed a miracle We had bought 10 bags of 20 snicker’s bars each. (that’s 200 snickers bars for you mathmatically challenged). We gave out 161 at the tea village. A diabetic team member ate one. That left, to our counting, 38 snickers bars that should be in our bag. There were 54 children at the orphanage + two children visiting from the nearby village. We knew we had nowhere near 56 snickers bars. But someone suggested that we count. So we poured them all out on the floor of the van. And, you guessed it. There were not 55 candy bars. There were not 57 candy bars. There were exactly 56 candy bars. You could not help but think about Jesus and the feeding of the 5,000. All I can say is that God provided and taught us that HE is sufficient and provides for His children!
By the third day of visiting the church and the orphanage, interest in the community had grown. The children were showing off their Burger King crowns (we talked of sexual purity and explained that they were all princes and princesses of THE KING). We told other Bible stories. The children would go home and tell the others in their household. More children came daily. The adult participation grew. On day three, the day I was supposed to teach on Prayer, about 40-50 adults had arrvied. The pastor was excited, but said, “for the most part, these are not people of my church, they are un-churched, please do a lesson on salvation instead of prayer!”. I almost panicked. I had not prepared a lesson on salvation, I had prepared a lesson on Prayer. I was also thinking, “There are 3 full time preachers on this trip – Let them do it!”. But deep down, I knew. I knew that THIS was why I came. I knew that GOD was in control and my job was to obey! (I did grab one preacher to go with me though). So, I began sharing in a small 16 x 20 room, about Christ. About how he changed my life. About how he loves me. About how he loves each one in that room. I shared about God sending his Son to take the penalty for my choice of disobedience. Of God sending His Son so that I could have fellowship with a Just and Holy God. I shared the story of Salvation! In this church, they don’t “walk the saw dust trail” as revivals of years gone by. But many, many did raise their hand to indicate they understood and that they desired and asked Jesus to be Lord of their life. It was an awesome moment in my life that I will never forget.
By the time I finished (probably 20 minutes), another 40 or 50 had arrived. There were over 90 people in that small room. I asked the preacher that came with me, Robert Doughtery, (preacher at Antioch Baptist) to give his version of the salvation story. He did and assuredly more came to know Christ. Well, I thought it was over and I was through – but God had other plans. The pastor then asked us to “Tell them how to grow in Christ…”. So Robert and I each gave a 20 minute lesson on growing in Christ. Then the pastor said, “Question and Answer Time”. And all of this was through an interpretor – what an experience!
The interesting thing was that the questions that they ask are the same questions that we ask. “Do you HAVE to go to church?” “How does one KNOW they are saved?” “Is it a sin to get mad at my favorite football team?” “What about all the different denominations and different religions?”. We answered these and more the best that we could. Probably not 100% correct, but I believe that God honored the effort. Hopefully lives were changed, I know mine was. We TALK of missions. We send MONEY to missions. But it is so life changing to be an actual PART of missions.
At the Nairobi airport, as we prepared to come home, I met a young lady 22 years old. (the same age as my daughter). She was going home to Colorado after spending 4 months in Africa – all by herself. I talked with her for an hour and a half. She was a changed person. Her trip was not a christian mission trip, she was volunteering to teach English. But the trip had changed her as well. I asked her if she knew my Jesus, and she did. So while I did not get to share Christ with her, it was an accomplishment for me that I tried!
I tell you all this not to boast in any way. If any good was done on that trip, it was all God’s doing. Hopefully, I did not get in the way too much. But I tell you this story to encourage you. GO on a mission trip when you get the opportunity. Our own Paul Williams in this community has lead many mission trips through the Methodist Church. Dennis Phillips of the Pulaski-Bleckley Baptist Association leads yearly trips. Speak to your pastor, there ARE opportunities.
You go thinking you might change the world. But it’s YOUR world that gets changed. It’s your perspectives that are altered. It’s your attitude that is modified. It is your pre-conceived notions that get shattered. People around the world all want the same things; to be loved; to be accepted; to survive and even thrive. People attempt to fill those wants with everything imaginable, yet, only God can truly fulfill.
Hopefully all 14 of us will never be the same. Possibly it took traveling half way around the world, attempting to change their lives, that will result in us being willing to change lives back home. When asked, GO. If not asked, then ask your Pastor, and then GO.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”