NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Mission Trips

It’s summer time and many people are going on short term mission trips. Often it’s students, sometimes it’s adults, but there always seems to be some sort of mission trip going on. In the past year I’ve seen more and more articles about why people should not go on short term mission trips. When I first read them, I thought a lot of their reasoning seemed valid. It costs a lot of money to travel and if that money was sent to the local missionaries instead of paying for a plane ticket it could really help them out.

But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I feel like I disagree. Mission trips, even short ones can be very good and useful in God’s Kingdom. I agree with a lot of what is said in these articles. I can definitely see how these trips can turn into tourist vacations, and hurt rather than help a local community of Christians. But I think the articles are overlooking something important.

Why do we even go on mission trips? What is the purpose? If the purpose is only to make yourself feel good about helping others, I can definitely see their point of being able to do that in your own community and not needing to raise a lot of support money to travel. But what we do as Christians is a lot bigger than just human plans, and helping people. We’re following Jesus’s plan and building His Kingdom. I don’t know why He chooses to do things the way He does, but I don’t doubt that His is the best plan.

Before I’ve gone on any mission trip, I’ve done a lot of praying, asking Jesus if He wants me to go. Because at the end of the day, people’s opinions about your trip whether they think it’s great, or a waste of money, doesn’t matter. What matters is if you are obeying Jesus. Money is no problem for Him, it all belongs to Him anyway. If He wants to take you half way around the world, He will provide a way, and if He wants you to stay where you are and reach out to the people around you, He can help you be bold and live differently. So ultimately, it’s not about us and what we think, it’s about Jesus and what He wants. This is His kingdom after all, not ours.

But I can also see a few advantages to mission trips, that are harder to recreate if you simply stay at home. One is your level of comfort. You can definitely find ways of being uncomfortable in your own city, but leaving your country is a big step. And God does some of His best work when we have to rely on Him. It’s easy to try to handle all the little problems of life yourself, when you’re at home, but when you’re in a foreign country, can’t speak much of the language, and don’t have all of the things and people you normally rely on, it forces you to seek God more consistently and desperately.

Also, there’s something special about traveling with a group of people. Because you spend all of your time together, on planes, buses, and walking through foreign streets, you really develop close relationships which is harder to do at home. Because you’ve all committed to go together, you learn to rely on each other, open up to each other and disciple each other. You can do the same things at home, but it really helps when you’re cut off from your normal routines and forced to actually spend time with people. Traveling also tends to limit your use of certain technologies like text messages and phone calls, so that you can focus more on where you are and what you’re doing at that moment with the people around you.

And lastly, going on a mission trip opens up the opportunity for you to meet people you otherwise would have never met and develop lasting relationships and a deeper interest and care in their ministry. It’s one thing to read a newsletter from a missionary you support, it’s a whole other thing to spend the day with them; seeing what they do on a day to day basis, who they interact with, what situations they face, and how you can better support, encourage, and pray for them. I have developed several close relationships with missionaries and I care more about what they’re doing because I’ve seen them doing it. I might never have supported them and continued to care for them, if I hadn’t gone on a mission trip to where they are serving.

So, I guess what I want to say is, even if you have reservations about a mission trip, or someone else’s mission trip, remember that it’s easy to judge, it’s harder to obey, then pray and ask God what He’s doing and ask if He wants you to be a part of it.

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Jesus Changes Things

Now that summer is getting closer, I’ve been thinking about how it’s going to look different than past summers. For the past thirteen years (since 2003) I have taken part in our church’s summer outreach called Great Adventure. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you’ve seen some posts about it in the past. Looking back, it really has had a huge impact on me personally. The first year I attended a Backyard Bible Club as one of the oldest children. (I was going into 7th grade). It’s similar to a Vacation Bible School except that the high school and middle school students from our church would go into different neighborhoods to run a club for a little over an hour. Adults helped drive the students and host the clubs but the students did the teaching.

The next year when I was going into 8th grade I joined one of the student teams and helped teach grade school kids who came to the clubs. It was a huge growing experience for me. I learned how to talk in front of a crowd, connect with kids, share the gospel with different illustrations, and be a part of a team. The next year I was stretched even more. I was going into high school and old enough to be a captain or leader of one of the student teams. It was intimidating, but I felt like God really wanted me to say yes, so I did. I went to several training camps for the first time (I should have gone to one of them the year before, but was on a vacation during it). That summer I learned so much about relying on God, trusting Him, and stepping out in obedience. I got to see kids come to Christ and see my own growth in sharing the gospel and doing what was uncomfortable.

After that year, I was hooked. I wanted to do Great Adventure every year. It had changed me, made me more confident in what God could do if I trusted Him and obeyed. It was exciting to see Him answer prayers, give us energy and work in the lives of the children we were teaching.

Although I wanted to be a part of it, I didn’t exactly want to be a leader again. I thought I’d done my time and now that there were more high schoolers in our youth group, I could let someone else be the captain. But God had other ideas. I ended up being a captain every summer after that up until I graduated from high school and went to college.

You know how when something really works for you, you think it should work the same for others? Like you don’t want it to change? It’s easy to make a good thing into a tradition. I totally do the same thing with restaurants. I keep going back to the ones I’ve been to before and am more hesitant to try new places. But anyway, for the next four years I always returned home for the summer and helped however I could with Great Adventure. It usually meant going to the training camps, taking pictures at the clubs, organizing supplies, and just helping others with what I had learned.

I started seeing changes though. When I had done Bible Clubs, we had gone to two clubs in the morning and 2 in the evening. At one point we even had clubs Monday through Friday and then a huge carnival called Summerfest on Saturday or Sunday. It was a pretty huge commitment and it took a lot of hard work.

But as the years passed, things changed. We ended up switching to only evening clubs, stopping on Thursday, and instead of a huge party at the church, we had individual block parties at each club. We also started writing our own curriculum instead of using other church’s scripts. And we changed the name to Summer Bible Clubs instead of Backyard Bible Clubs. Some of the changes I liked, others were hard to accept. But each year it seemed like God wanted to do things a bit differently. Those “good old days” I’d had in my high school years weren’t the same. But somehow it was still good. I guess God has a better plan than me.

After college I was able to intern at the church and help write the curriculum for several years. I brought all of my experience from the past but tried to be open to doing things differently. We added new games, changed how we shared the gospel with personal testimonies, and just tried new things to make it more friendly to unchurched families.

So that brings us to today and now the latest change has come. Instead of doing Bible clubs for one week, we’re going to connect to neighbors at parks throughout a whole month, and have groups within our church plan their own outreach activities. And instead of teaching students how to run a club, we’re going to teach them how to share the gospel with their friends and to view their schools as their mission field.

It’s kind of hard for me to let go of Bible clubs. I learned so much from them and they were a huge part of my life for the past thirteen years. But as I’ve seen Jesus change our plans every summer and still be faithful to do even greater things, I will trust Him in this.┬áBecause I do not worship a curriculum, a tradition, or my own preferences. I worship Jesus Christ. His ways are always best. He is always making things new and changing us from the inside, so I can’t expect Him to do things the same way forever. His purpose is unchanging. His goal is fixed. But His methods can be quite surprising and unconventional. So wherever He leads our church, I know it’s best, because He is always right.

Anyway, I hope you learned something from my ramblings about change and learn to trust Jesus in what He’s changing in your life too.

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Miracles From Heaven Review

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So I saw this movie last week and since I couldn’t think of any other topic to write about this week, I thought I’d review it. This is another in a long line of Christian based films that have come out in recent years. It is nice to have high quality films in theaters that have faith based messages and compelling stories. This particular movie is based on a true story of a girl in Texas with a horrible stomach issue that was slowly killing her. In the course of the film she undergoes several tests, treatments, and a lot of pain. She gets to the point of not wanting to live anymore and her family takes her home for the time she has left with them. And then she has an accident and falls inside a dead tree. Miraculously she does not have any serious injuries from the fall and is also cured from her disease.

It is a heart wrenching story and I admit I cried several times during the film. I have had family members and friends go through horrible heath problems and it’s so hard to feel like there is nothing you can do about it. But what I really loved about this film, is that is shows not only the big miracle of this girl being healed, but it also showed the little miracles or ways that love was shown throughout the film: A friend taking care of the remaining kids while the parents rushed off to the hospital, or a waitress taking off work so she can show the mother and daughter around her hometown and lift their spirits. All those little moments of caring for someone else more than yourself, was a little miracle, a little reminder that God cared.

And what excites me about this, is that we all can be a part of God’s miracles, of His work in this world. We can show love in those little ways by encouraging a friend, praying with them and for them, bringing over a hot meal, or even crying with them over what’s happened. God’s miracles are all around us and He wants to use us to do them. He invites us to be a part of what He’s doing. So I’d like to encourage you today to say “Yes!” to Him and obey when He asks you to do something. It may be as simple as opening the door for someone, or smiling and saying thank you to the cashier. It could be buying someone a meal or watching someone’s kids so they can have a night out. Whatever it may be, God can use your little acts of obedience and love to do amazing things that affect eternity.

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