Every missions trip experience leaves a mark for different reasons and each trip fans the flame that sparked my passion for medical missions. I play back memories of my time in each country like a film reel — seeing hearts change when they hear the Gospel for the first time, watching the carefree spirits of communities who lack in material possessions but have an abundance of love.
But, my trip in January 2011 stands out to me as being the trip that opened a chapter in my life to answer Gods call. It was when I traveled to Jamaica that a passion was sparked for medical missions.
Our team served in Jamaica through several unique ways. We performed construction work at a school for the deaf, volunteered with the Eden school, and served children at a local orphanage. At the orphanage, the children greeted us with their smiles and were so happy to have us there. They loved hugging us and, at the same time, challenged us to games of kickball. It gave me so much JOY to serve God by reminding these children that God loves them and He sees their worth!
In addition to those humbling experiences, another reason I enjoyed this specific trip was because my son Trent accompanied me for the second time. My son has a heart to serve and experienced transformation from his first missions trip opportunity; he was eager to serve in
There were many high school and college age students on this trip who worked hard that week shoveling and carrying buckets of dirt and rocks. But more importantly, they were carrying the Gospel into places that were searching for hope. Though I knew Gods Word, He spoke to me in a new way that week as well.
I spent a lot of time reading the Bible, praying, and hearing from God. I received clarity from the Lord that my focus should be on medical missions because of my nursing background and Gods gift of organization. The call was clear, and my answer was yes!
Since my time in Jamaica, I became more actively involved in planning and leading all future medical mission trips for my church and continue to willingly listen to Gods call.
A transformation after a missions trip, whether it be because of what you offered to others or experienced individually, will make re-entry back to your everyday life more difficult. Its as if you are stuck in the same life but are a completely different person. How do you navigate this? The blinders to poverty and cultural differences have been removed, and you cant go back to your regular life without addressing the changes.
You will typically experience four phases after a missions trip.
Phase 1: Debriefing
Its important to not jump straight back into your routine without debriefing your experiences on the mission field.
What experiences stand out?
What parts of your trip do you want to capture and remember?
Choose experiences that need further processing, and then dive into phase two.
Phase 2: Processing
There is a fine line between debriefing and processing. Processing is one step deeper. You can sit in a group and debrief an experience by talking about all the details, but to actually process something is to get to the root of the impact.
Why did those experiences stand out?
What have you learned about God?
Phase 3: Navigating
After processing the impact of your missions trip, the next part is figuring out how you will navigate your life with all the new knowledge! Cultural frustrations may set in, and youll find yourself frustrated that the people around you dont seem affected by whats happening in the world around them. Though you cant change everyone else, you CAN navigate how to move forward.
What does your new normal look like?
How do you want to impact the people around you based on your experience?
Phase 4: Action
This is the most important step to move forward! You can make progress internally, but one must take action! Some people choose to take action by ignoring what they experienced and getting on with their lives, but consider actively implementing changes. Allow your missions trip to help you live a life of active intention.
What change do you want to implement into your life?
What impact can you make as a result of your experience?
Allow yourself to go through each of the four stages as you reenter your new normal. Its okay to be impacted and allow yourself to live differently.
Do you have a different strategy for your re-entry process? Give us some pointers in the comments about your re-entry process following a missions trip.
Missions trips are often short-lived, but the effects are long-term. Its been argued that short-term missions are ineffective and often cause more hurt than help. However, if done right, there can be long-term, positive effects from a missions trip experience.
The Global Coalition said, When done well, a short-term trip itself is just one piece of the broader, long-term journey of learning and engagement with Gods work in the world. Through this type of transformation, churches can better share the gospel. There is no greater success than the local body of Christon both sides of the short-term trip equationdeclaring and demonstrating the hope of Jesus Christs reconciling work.
Here are three ways a short-term missions trip can have a long-term impact:
1. Represents the global church.
The people who attend a missions trip are the hands and feet of Christ. They serve others because of their love for the Lord! Giving time and energy in service of others is a reflection of Gods provision and love for His people. Introducing others to the love of God plants seeds that grow for years to come for both those giving and receiving care. The same God that is in the United States is also in all the other worlds continents.
2. Expands ones worldview.
When we travel, our view of the world broadens. We delve into different cultures, meet new people, and see how Gods love stretches across the world and covers all people. Though different, we can unify through faith. Our respect and love for others expands when we walk in their shoes. Missions trips give us that opportunity!
3. Develop a love and understanding for missions.
My first missions trip was when I was in eighth grade. My heart for missions began to grow from that moment on and led me to financially support other peoples missions trips, give to mission organizations, and adopt internationally. Serving can look different for everyone, but going on a short-term missions trip can change peoples hearts to make a long term impact and keep serving in their communities and beyond. Many missionaries or non-profit service organizations began with a short-term missions experience. Peoples heart for other cultures grew and they saw the need for change because of one short-term experience.
The Gospel Coalition said the following about longterm effects of short-term missions: What happens after participants return home is typically the single biggest factor in whether a trip was worth it. We need to communicate to participants that they have a responsibility to steward the visit well. They have an opportunity to support the believers and community they visited through their long-term prayers, monetary support, advocacy, and encouragement. And they have an opportunity to translate the things they have seen into faithful involvement in poverty alleviation in their own communities.
For those of you who have been on a missions trip, tell us in the comments how the experience effected your life long term!