What do you think of when you think of mission trips? Do you think of beaches and beautiful experiences? Do you envision holding babies or working construction? Do you think of God moving throughout the world, impacting people’s lives, and your own heart being changed and drawn closer to Him? Maybe it depends on your personal experience and what you have heard from others.
There are some people out there who ask the question, “Do mission trips actually make a difference?” Depending on who you ask, you will find opposing viewpoints on the answer to this question. Some people believe that they don’t do any good, that there really isn’t any lasting fruit from them. You go, and then a week or two weeks later, you leave the people you’ve encountered and their lives are essentially still the same.
But that’s not we think. We believe that mission trips have the potential to touch people deeply and to impact communities and nations for Jesus. Here’s why we believe this:
Mission Trips Can Impact the Local People
This is one of the main reasons why we as Christians go (at least it should be)! We want to see God’s kingdom established in places of darkness, where there is no hope. Where people’s lives are full of disappointment, despair, and meaninglessness, we want to see God bring life, joy, and peace. We want to see God glorified and people brought near to Him.
At the beginning of this year, we sent people to 5 different countries around the world. In South Africa, one of our teams saw around 200 people come to know Christ! That’s 200 lives who will never be same! We may leave, but Jesus is faithful to those people, and He will never leave them. In South Asia, we saw people get healed of physical ailments like messed up hips and hurt lower backs. God wants to touch people’s hearts and heal their bodies! It may have never happened for those people if we hadn’t gone. In Greece, we ministered to countless Syrian refugees, and showed them the tangible love of Christ by helping to staff a refugee camp so that it could run smoothly. We gave out blankets, helped get them fresh clothes, and staffed security for the entrance to the camp. In Germany and the Czech Republic, we connected with young people and built friendships with them. We told them about the relationship we have with Jesus, and that He wants the same with them. We served the missionaries who hosted our team and did work projects around their property. We saw local people come to know Jesus, and we saw the missionaries that we came alongside tell us they were grateful and blessed to have us. Which leads us to our next point:
Mission Trips Can Impact the Long-Term Missionaries
At lot of times we underestimate the potential we have to bless missionaries as we go on mission trips. Many of them are people who are sold out to Jesus and felt His call to give up their home, their families, and their culture to go be a part of what God is doing overseas. They are people that genuinely love Jesus, and have a desire to bring Him to others. But they can get tired. They can get lonely. They can be discouraged. In many ways, they can face more cultural and spiritual challenges than we do.
So when we go overseas on a missions trip with fresh commitment and excitement to see God move, it can greatly impact local missionaries’ lives. When we go focused not on the kind of experience we want to have, but committed to truly serving, we can bless the missionaries we serve alongside. It can re-energize, give fresh vision, put new passion for deeper relationship with Jesus, encourage, and heal hurts in their lives.
It can also help them in their long-term ministry with local people. We can open doors for them as we love and serve the local people and establish a good reputation for them among their communities. We can help break spiritual strongholds as we pray and fight battles for God with them.
Mission Trips Can Impact Us
There are so many stories of people who went on a mission trip and had God touch their life in a really deep way. They head out thinking that God’s going to move in incredible ways, touch people’s lives, and that they are probably going to be really tired at the end of it. And God does move in incredible ways in people’s lives, and they are really tired at the end of it! But one thing they don’t count on is how much He is going to transform their own lives. He shows them more of His great love for them. He gives them a deeper desire to know Him and live for Him. He gives them perspective on life and how much He has blessed them. And He gives them a desire and vision to impact their own communities and relationships they have back home.
Yeah, but can’t mission trips hurt and destroy long-term impact?
Yes. That can be absolutely true. We all have the potential to go on a mission trip with selfish motives. We can make our contacts and hosts discouraged and frustrated. We can destroy their reputation among the local people. We can give Christians, and ultimately Christ, a bad rep. And we can put a bad taste in people’s mouths.
But that’s not the point. The truth is, we can have a negative impact right where we live, too. Each of us has the potential to bring life or death wherever we go, because we were created in the image of a powerful God, and God gives us a choice every day on how we exercise the authority he’s given us.
The question to ask is, “Do I love Jesus and want to see people brought to life by Him? Am I willing to sacrifice my comfort, my expectations, and my own ideas to serve others?” If yes, then let’s go! We have the opportunity to change people, communities, and nations through loving them like Christ. Jesus said in Luke 10:2 that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. The need is great! We need to be people that go, for,
“… how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”