Having participated in 8 trips, each about a week long, I feel qualified to reflect on my favorite reasons to participate in a mission trip – particularly with your friends at NCU.
First off, I feel like I should talk about the type of trip I’m referring to. A “short-term mission trip” is very common inside the world of the Church, but it can have very different meanings. All of the trips I have attended have been partnering with long-term ministries. We encourage the people who have been doing good work and continue to do so, all while creating relationships and exposing ourselves to a world bigger than ourselves. When I was preparing for my last trip, I had heard a lot of grief and complaints about short-term missions (too self-centered, not enough time for real relationships, and does more harm than good to the local economy) but I believe the trips I’ve been blessed to be a part of (and the trips NCU is a part of) have all been very positive. Additionally, while a lot of my reasons don’t directly tie into domestic mission trips, we are offering a trip to inner-city Portland during Spring Break this year!
My top reasons to go on a mission trip (as a student or faculty/staff leader!):
Increases global awareness
The world is a big and beautifully-diverse place. There’s so much more to see than our backyards. I believe everyone should go outside the country at least once in their lifetime.
Makes you appreciate little things
Living in a first-world country, we don’t even realize the things we need to be grateful for: plumbing, easy access to clean water, safety, technology, education… The list could go on and on. Living with people who do not have easy access or any access to these things is incredibly humbling and an integral part of understanding our story in the context of the world. After serving in countries where English is not the norm, I have increased capacity to empathize with people in the US operating out of a second language.
Emphasizes team and unity
Being the body of Christ means (a) you have to each use your God-given strengths and (b) you have to know yourself and your team well enough to know each other’s strengths. Whether you realize or not, your unique talents will make any team stronger. The sweat, tears, and laughter you share with your team is so meaningful. The memories you have from doing life so closely with each other can be used as a foundation and deepened even after returning home.
American culture places emphasis on getting the job done; other cultures value relationships and place emphasis on spending time with one another. We can learn so much from each other if we actually take the time to listen.
Vulnerability: Get out of your comfort zone
Your comfort zone can keep you from experiencing a lot if you let it. Fear is a common thing, but we’ve been created to have a “spirit not of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” If your dreams and goals don’t elicit at least a little bit of fear, maybe you’re not dreaming big enough (or you’re just crazy). Outside of your comfort zone is where we get to practice faith and trust in God. “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders…”
Joy and inspiration
There’s so much inspiration outside our day-to day routines and schedules. Personally, one of my favorite things is to see children with nothing but smiles. To me, it’s one of the truest examples of joy – once the “stuff” is stripped down, you’re left with what really matters… love for God and love for other people. What other inspiration might you miss out on if you don’t expand your horizons?
Experience worship without barriers
It’s a pretty cool experience getting to worship God in another country. God is the same God of the entire universe – no matter what language you’re speaking or singing in. Worshiping God together in awe and silence, service, song, touch, prayer, etc transcends language barriers and a lot of other barriers, too.
If you haven’t gathered this point by now, let me just spell it out for you: you will have F-U-N! There’s usually something for everyone on a trip – friendships, new foods, laughter, new sights and sounds, and so much more. It’s definitely an adventure; an unknown place with an unknown spiritual destination that God reveals in his own time.
A lot people talk about not feeling called, but the fact is all Christians have been called to love God, love his people, and spread the gospel. How you live out that calling can look different, but regardless of “feeling,” we are all called.
FOMO: Fear of missing out
Take opportunities when they come; you don’t know when or if another similar opportunity will present itself. In my life, I’ve regretted the “no”s more than the “yes”s. Why not just say yes and see what happens?
I hope these reasons made you at least seriously consider going on a mission trip with NCU this year (or another organization). I have a few more in my back pocket if you need more convincing. 😉 Ready to apply? https://myncu.nwcu.edu/missionsapp
PS: Don’t let a fear of fundraising be the only thing to keep you from going! We have lots of opportunities to help you reach your goal.