Pastor Rob Wagler
One of the days I most look forward to each year, right up there with Christmas and my league’s Fantasy Football draft (no, seriously!) is the day I head out on the road with my youth group on a week-long mission trip. If you have never taken your youth group on a mission trip, or if you have never gone yourself, you are missing out on some amazing potential benefits! Let me tell you about a few…
First, mission trips cause us to see a bigger world. As followers of Christ, we are called to go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), and we are told we have the power of the Holy Spirit to be the Lord’s messengers to all the world (Acts 1:8). The implication within these verses is that we should appreciate a bigger world that needs Christ! We are just a small piece of this magnificent puzzle of life on this planet. But, see, often we feel we are the most important piece, or that our “section of the puzzle” is all that there is. Part of that view comes from the fact that we never really get out of our “section” to experience much of the world. Going on a mission trip really puts that all in perspective. I have seen teens experience for the first time: an airplane flight, a subway ride, seeing a parking meter, talking with a homeless person, driving through the mountains and the city, and seeing infants and children abandoned by mothers who could not care for them.
These eye-opening experiences are so humbling and beautiful because we become enlightened to the amazing world that God has provided, the diversity within the world, and the need for Jesus that all the world’s people have.
Second, mission trips provide a vastly different medium through which we examine our own relationship with Christ. Generally, traveling on a mission trip means we are out of our comfort-zone, away from the normal activities and pressures, and more focused on the spiritual. I know that I first committed myself to doing the Lord’s work when I was a student on a youth trip to the mountains of North Carolina. I didn’t know then exactly what that would entail, but I knew the Lord was speaking to me, and that I needed to make the commitment to follow Him wherever it would lead. For some students, a mission trip provides an opportunity for them to open their heart to Jesus for the first time. For some, it opens their eyes to an understanding that they can share their faith with others… and it’s o.k.! And for a few, a mission trip becomes the spring board to enter a life in ministry or on the mission field.
Third, mission trips provide a means to grow and develop relationships on the most personal of levels. There is nothing like being with your students 24 hours a day for an entire week. The experiences and memories you will share are bonds that connect you for life. And often those bonds create opportunities to pour into lives that otherwise you may not have been able to.
I realize those three were all very “me-centered,” but I believe that the majority of benefits from a mission trip are with those who go. To close, though, I do want to add that mission trips provide a benefit to others who need help. That help could be in a house that needs painted, a well that needs dug, a kind word that needs spoken, or a heart that needs Jesus. I pray you will consider taking an opportunity to go pour into the lives of others (and yourself) by going on a mission trip!
Rob Wagler pastors youth at Brighton Chapel in Howe, IN and plans trips for his youth that have included partnering with CPR-3 to bring his youth group to Haiti for a week long Movement trip.