Why go on a mission trip?
Last weekend, we returned from a short term mission trip to Nicaragua. Mission Trips have exploded in popularity in recent decades, resulting in plenty of debates about whether or not they are actually beneficial. (For a good treatment of that subject, I recommend reading When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett.) I’d like to share, very briefly, how our mission trips have been helpful in terms of helping us to lead missional lives.
The main objection I have heard over the years is “Why go there (in our case, Nicaragua) when there are so many needs here?” Well, we go there because when we do, we are better equipped and motivated to serve here.
Our mission partners in Nicaragua work with Vida Joven (aka Young Life). They actually believe that God is at work changing their country. Vida Joven’s ministry is growing rapidly. They are seeing lives changed. This year, we spent a night in Dario with the family of a young man named Manuel. His brother Francisco told me that Manuel smiles more now. In a previous trip, I met a former gang enforcer there named Aaron who leads a Vida Joven Club now. One year we helped host a soccer game between barios. The leader of the gang in one of the barios spent some time talking with Holman and decided to come to camp. In Nicaragua, Vida Joven is filled with Catholics and Protestants. They don’t divide over doctrine. They unite around following Christ and they are seeing Christ change their country. Holman Mendoza, the national director, says with humble confidence that he believes God is changing his country, that a day will come when the President of Nicaragua will look back on his days in Young Life. We know the stories because we go back, again and again, to be with the same people. We know and love brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ in Nicaragua.
By the way, they don’t really need us to do ministry for them in Nicaragua. But I’d like to think we encourage them in what they are doing. We certainly pray for one another – and that’s been huge.
When we go there, and see the hope, joy, life, and confidence in a country filled with poverty and all it’s challenges, we come back with increased faith and courage to jump into the challenges that are facing our city. They teach us. They challenge us. They inspire us. They remind us that God alive and at work in the world.
Nearly every family that has ever gone with me on one of these mission trips is now engaged in a personal ministry of blessing their neighbors, their community, and their city. They went on mission there, and are living missionaly here. Of course, you don’t have to go on a mission trip to engage in blessing and serving your city. But this I know: many did not have an outward oriented ministry before going on a short term mission trip, and now they do.
The main reason I like to take people there is because of what happens here. What God does there spills over here.
What inspires you to bless your city?