Why go on a mission trip? Why sacrifice money and time needed for a hundred other things? What about the food and sleeping arrangements? I can’t speak the language, so how will I be effective? Would it be better if I just sent the money? Perhaps unintentionally, we bring a sense of anxiety as part of the baggage that accompanies our mission journey.
“Keep the eyes of your heart open to God,” the devotional urged on the first morning of the Lipscomb University mission trip. For the last four years, Lipscomb has sent groups of graduate pharmacy students, accompanied by staff and medical doctors, to conduct medical clinics in the DR. Although many were “newbies,” they were supported by more experienced members. Together they organized meds and supplies, and quickly picked up the rhythm of a medical clinic in the DR. Four clinics and over 500 patients later, they celebrated God’s amazing work through their efforts.
Reflecting on blessings and accomplishments over the week of ministry, one participant shared the experience in which God had spoken most clearly to him. His group was invited for supper in the home of a church family.
“We left the compound and drove for about 10 minutes into an area of town I had never seen before. Houses were in shambles, and things didn’t look very clean. Stray dogs seemed to be everywhere. We passed many people sitting or even laying around in the open.”
He continued to paint a verbal picture of the dirt road bordered by overgrown weeds, humble dwellings lining the road, many constructed of wood and palm boards with rusty zinc roofs. As they approached the home where they would be eating, the host family waited to welcome them outside the front door of their home–three small rooms, one in which everyone slept, and a kitchen where they also ate. There was no electricity. Curtains took the place of doors separating the rooms.
He continued saying, “From the moment we arrived, any uneasiness disappeared. We felt loved and welcomed. Sharing through a translator, we felt the presence of God. We were so different. Our two worlds seemingly had nothing in common. In spite of material poverty, they radiated gratitude, faith and love.”
He saw life through a different filter. God opened the eyes of his heart to “see” and remember what is most important in life.
On a mission trip, we can meet many needs, and bless many children and families. The greatest impact of a mission trip, however, is the change in the perspective of each participant. They are reminded that the true riches of life are not our material possessions, nor are they reflected in our bank statements. Rich is not what you have, but Who you have, and the faith, love, and joy that only He can provide.