Missions Trips: A Great Way to Experience and Encounter GodContinued...
Our church group was divided into groups of six. My group worked on building a home for a family who had pieced together some scraps of cardboard and wood as a kind of shelter. At noon we were to trade ministries with another group that had been out doing door-to-door evangelism through translators. When the group came back, they were elated. They had led seven people to Christ during their visits. We were all intimidated by their success; we felt inadequate to go out ourselves. But we decided to stop and pray, asking God to reveal Himself to the Mexicans we would be visiting. As we went out and began sharing, we could see confidence grow and fear diminish. Each person took turns sharing. By the time we returned two and a half hours later, seven of nine people we visited had come to Christ!
Before long, I saw that not only was my group building homes and leading others to faith in Jesus, but in the process, God was transforming them. Each time they stepped out in faith, God met them at their point of need and used them to change lives. Four years later, I still remember Guillermina as though it were yesterday. As we were going door-to-door, we were introduced to Guillermina, a Catholic lady who didn't really want to talk. We asked her if there was anything we could pray with her about. Gradually, she began to open up. "My husband is abusing our family," she said, crying. After we had prayed for her, we talked to her about the difference that Jesus could make in her life. She had embraced a works-based salvation. We showed her what scripture says about salvation being a free gift. When she realized that it was actually free and didn't depend on her good works, she broke down in tears, asking if we could help her ask Jesus into her heart. It was a very powerful experience for her and for us.
I was so blown away by my first missions trip, that I found a way to go on five others since then. Last year, 28 people from my company flew to Mexico. The airfare from Atlanta cost $250 each. The four days that they spent building homes for the poor cost them only $160 plus money the company raised for construction materials. We went through an organization which specializes in men's missions projects called Adventures In Missions (my church is also sponsoring a trip just for families through the same organization).
Shortly thereafter, the first group of 28 men from my church went on the same kind of project, flying down Wednesday evening and returning Sunday evening. Many of the guys on the trip said it was the best thing that they ever did - a real life-changing experience. Every one of the guys said they wanted to return and bring a friend.
You may ask, how is it that a four-day experience can have such an impact? Why don't these kinds of things happen in every day life? I believe it's because of three basic spiritual principles which undergird most short-term missions experiences. First, God says that He will reward those who seek Him diligently. When we leave all of our conveniences and distractions behind to go minister for a period of time, we are seeking Him.
Secondly, God commands us to care for the less fortunate. He says if we are obedient in this that we'll have an abundant life. Some people think this means material blessings, but it really means the incredible joy and fulfillment you feel in meeting the needs of others who are desperate.
Thirdly, I love the principle contained in 2 Corinthians 9:12, "The ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing though many thanksgivings to God." In other words, our service not only meets human needs, but it brings praise to our heavenly Father.
After my first mission trip, I had a unique experience which I've never had before or since. I had a vision of groups of adults going on missions trips - businesspeople with bags and briefcases that filled planes. In my vision I raised objections as to why this could not be. Yet for each objection, I received answers. For example, I said, "The cost is too prohibitive." The answer I received was that money could be saved by getting cheaper airfares. Then I thought, "The people who most need to go on these trips are also least likely to spend a whole week." The answer to that was fairly simple, they could get flights that left on Wednesday evening so they need only miss two days of work. Still another objection was, "People won't give up their conveniences." The answer to this objection was short and to the point, "You did." And last I asked, "How will they know what an impact missions can have?" The answer was, "You will tell them." And so I have been.
I now believe that many of those men that I saw in that vision represent Promise Keepers. I believe that men are ready for short-term missions trips like this. Through them they can build their faith and continue to grow. They represent a great potential next step for Promise Keepers. In my every day suburban existence, it's easy for me to grow comfortable. I'm rarely challenged in my faith like I have been on each of my six trips in the last four years. I remember once we were walking down a dusty street in Mexico, much like those Jesus must have walked. We noticed two old ladies running after us. Our translator talked to them and informed us, "They want you to come pray for them." We were dumbfounded. "How did they know to ask us?" We asked. Our translator's response was so straightforward it took us aback, "Don't you know? The Holy Spirit is in you!"
Experiences like that don't often happen in downtown Atlanta. But now that I've come to see the difference that Christ can make through me overseas, I'm much more aware of the opportunities I have to make a difference here.