In the next year, more than a million Americans will travel on a short-term mission trip of some sort. Many are looking for ways to learn and grow, to try something they’ve always wanted to do, or to offer themselves in service to others. Stepping out of our comfort zones and into another part of God’s world will stretch our faith and may even change us forever.
Some are drawn to go because they want to see the world through different lenses. Centuries ago St. Augustine said it well: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page,” Despite our easy access to TV and the Internet, pilgrimage and personal experience still have great appeal today. As followers of Jesus, we don’t just travel to take in the sights and thrill our senses, but to be God’s witnesses and to see for ourselves how he has left his fingerprints on the world.
From the earliest times, God has called people out into the unknown, often through short-term ventures and experiences. Consider the journeys of Paul, Barnabas, Philip, Steven, Nehemiah, Jonah, and the “mission teams” of Numbers 13 and Joshua 2. In each case God had something for them to see, learn, or do (and often all three). The God who sent them sends us, too. He sends us to be the salt of the earth, a light to the world, and his hands and feet, whether we’re close to home or far from it.
Thinking about going on a mission trip? This may be the year for you to go. Consider these reasons to pursue a short-term mission trip experience.
1. To Obey the Great Commission and Great Commandment
The mission of God to make disciples of all nations is the mission of his church in the world today. Jesus sends us out as the Father sent him, by his grace and for his glory. Demonstrating and sharing God’s love with others is something we’re made for. Let’s not keep the good news of the gospel to ourselves.
Can you serve God and others more effectively close to home? Quite possibly. But that does not mean he doesn’t want to use you for a season somewhere else. Often such an experience helps us see our lives at home through different eyes and better serve the people who live right next to us, too.
2. To Walk with God’s Global Servants
The short-term mission movement is sometimes criticized for absorbing resources that could support long-term work and workers. Yet many mission teams work alongside these global servants and under their direction, assisting in their work. Such a trip can give you the chance to explore what motivates them, learn from them, and discover how they see their work and their world. Perhaps God would have you partner further with one of these global servants, join their ranks, or take skills and lessons you learn and apply them in another context.
Do you think God is calling you to surrender more to him? If a mission trip is your next big step, you’ll have to trust him for the resources to make it happen, for others to walk with you, for love for those you meet, for grace to be flexible as the experience unfolds, and for mercy when you fall. By engaging the unknown on a mission trip, many learn how to better walk with God day by day and moment by moment.
4. To Take a Journey of Personal Growth
It’s almost a cliché now. As most mission trip participants report, you may receive more than you give. While taking a mission trip solely for what you can get out of it may be irresponsible, many find the journey of personal faith and growth to be life-changing. The German philosopher Martin Buber said it well: “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” If God is tugging on you to be part of a mission team, it’s likely he has something he wants to do in your life through this experience.
5. To Encourage Others
The world needs more missionaries, even those who only go for a short time. Not enough people are willing to leave behind their comforts and routines to serve the poor and vulnerable, share the message of the gospel, listen to those who have no voice, and learn from God’s global church. If God is nudging you to go, look to him to overcome the opposition and obstacles you may face. Your service can encourage others to glorify God for what he’s doing in your life and to pursue their own God-given purposes. If you are willing to go, others may be able to picture themselves going too.
» See also Opening the World: A Look at the Scope of Worldwide Opportunities, Finding a Mission Trip That Fits, and other articles related to choosing and preparing for a mission trip.