So, I’m not gonna lie. I used to think short-term mission trips were kind of a joke. You show up, do your thing, then go home and forget about it. Yeah, I know. That is completely wrong thinking. But, I had watched a video series called The Poverty Cure and thought that it was all kind of bogus. You show up to an impoverished community, pass out shoes, talk to the locals, and then go home. Does that really help anything? I have seen people come back from a missions trip only to go back to their normal lives with an appeased spirit because they checked a missions trip off their list. What I failed to notice was how many people come back from those trips changed. I know this is true now because it happened to me.
It started at Rock Nest Ranch Bible Camp. My brother, Joseph, had served their a few summers, and my other brother, Josh, decided to check it out too. When he mentioned going, I couldn’t resist. I was tired of sitting behind a desk. I wanted some frontline action. So, three of us tagged along with Josh: my youngest brother, my cousin, and myself. Big Birtha, our hot red mini van, carried us all the way from Tucson, AZ to Houston, British Columbia. Road trips are not foreign to me, but this was the most memorable. No hotels for us (well, we caved in one night); we camped the whole way up.
Originally, I volunteered to be the office person for the camp. It was the perfect transition for me: jumping from one desk to another. Ha! God had other plans. He decided I would be a cabin leader (a.k.a. camp counselor) and camp photographer. After the week of training, I thought I was prepared, but I was wrong.
During that first week, a group of teens arrived from a new reserve, and by “new” I mean teens from that reserve had never attended camp before. Let’s just say that “intense” is a mild adjective for that week. It was chaos. Attempted suicide, cutting, fights, tears, sneak outs, and lakeside hanky panky were all a part of the week’s agenda (obviously, not our agenda, but the teens’). My cousin and I described our cabin as Omaha Beach. But, something happened. In the last chapel session, there was crying, hugging, and praising. Reserve rivalries melted away through the power of Christ. I realized in that moment that I could love someone outside of my family. God placed a love for the lost on my heart that night.
Then they went home. They traveled back to reserves that had no churches, missionaries, or even other Christians. That’s how the Lord placed full-time ministry on my radar.
Don’t think like I did. Lies. All lies. Don’t doubt what God can do through a short-term missions trip.
My family and I went back, but we did not go back to our lives and forget. One Sunday in front of our home church my brothers presented the need in British Columbia. Our church responded. The next summer we traveled up not with a group four but with thirty. The summer after that brought even more.
Now, Josh and I work among an Apache community in the White Mountains of Arizona learning, growing, and preparing for what God will have us do next. Oh, and I don’t think three summers of Rock Nest Ranch were enough. If you catch my drift…
If you have an opportunity to take a week off and serve people under Christ’s banner, do it. You won’t regret it.