“With God, the sky is the limit. Literally.”
Growing up in a Christian home, I learned about missions from a young age. My brother and sister went on trips every summer before school started and I longed for the day that I might touch the world as well. From encounters I had, I began to understand the lasting impact that missions have on both the ones that are being shared the Gospel with and those who are going out into the world evangelizing.
I have been fortunate enough to experience first-hand, the lasting effects of going on missions trips and how while in a foreign land, it is easy to see that the natives end up being the ones who impact the lives of those coming to bless them because they are so joyful that people are visiting their village or community. The team visiting the area find that they leave these lands having been blessed beyond words by the simple yet beautiful way that the people there are accustomed to living. I looked for people I knew were transformed personally, during their trips and returned more passionate about the relationships and experiences they received from their travels, and more importantly, from having an encounter with God.
First, I interviewed my friend Marissa who has been to a few locations including Paraguay, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. “How do we do anything for these people,” Marissa inquired when asked about the trips she has been on. “It was an incredible experience [in which], I didn’t even know what I could do or offer,” then stated, “having that experience was just overwhelming.” Marissa later discussed how the most influential part of the trip for her was “being in another country where they speak another language and having no choice to but to function and thrive in another culture”.
The transformation that takes place for individuals and teams who come together to do a missions-based trip, is phenomenal. Physically, it can be very demanding when traveling anywhere out of the country because it means there will be a different environment to get used to, and even more so for missions work. “The training to go to the Amazon was intense” Recounted Marissa, “We did training as a team and I was in the best shape of my life because we were constantly working out together.” My friend Sean added, “It’s always a challenge when your body is in another environment, you have to understand the culture so you don’t get sick, dealing with the heat, all the things that come with being in another culture”.
Asia humorously, yet in all seriousness, added her own difficulties about the physical challenges she faced when on her trips. “I realized you don’t need as much sleep as they all say because God will energize you; you don’t need as much food as they all say because God will sustain you; and you don’t need a shower every day as they all say because God’s grace gives people the sustainability to deal with your smell if you can’t shower!” The truth is, that while in a foreign land, a shower is a luxury that may not be offered like we have here in the States but the people are so ecstatic that they are being visited that they may offer the little water they do have for their honored guests as a means of thanks.
In addition to her view of the physical obstacles, Asia went deeper into the spiritual mountains necessary to climb, “I have learned that there is no sweeter thing in life than to pick up your cross and follow Him, no matter what that means or what that looks like. When we full-heartedly chase God’s heart, it’s ultimately the thing that fulfills the human heart.”
“Spiritual health has to be represented by physical health so I have to take care of my body because it affects my spiritual [being]. Mental health is also affected by physical health. I do very well with the hands on [experience] because I want my physical mind to be strong too. Physically, spiritually, mentally, when God stretches you it’s because he wants you to grow – he wants to see you fulfill what he has for your life. He is going to stretch us the way he wants to, and it is tough, but it is completely worth it and all I can say is thank you, Lord, for using me and [he] deserves my life and [he] deserves the glory and honor. Whatever mountain I have to climb I will do it because [God], has put [his] strength in me.” Sean commented.
Marissa told me how a spiritual prophecy over her became her physical reality as well as a mental reminder for her first trip. “YOU ARE STRONG,” the woman told her, which “defined my life at that point – physically, mentally and spiritually I became strong – one guy used to call me the “Iron Lady”’
On the next trip she went on, however, Marissa said she felt like the Lord was teaching her how to be compassionate. She concluded that “He was teaching me to be like him and was revealing to me that he is not just strong or just compassionate but he is both at the same time.”
All three individuals had a similar takeaway from the trip. Asia said, “God always wants to spend time with you; it’s now your turn to free up your life from every distraction in order to commune with Him.” In Marissa’s response, she mentioned that when we take part in these trips that we experience God on deeper levels as we engage in the cultures of others. That these encounters allow us to shape our theology further of how we see God and ourselves as well as his people from every tribe and tongue. “It’s not just God in America but God is in all these other places and he wants to be explored and sought on deeper levels.” Lastly, Sean described his takeaway through the passage in 1 Corinthians 13:3, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” He added, “I know that God is making me a leader and the things he has taught me during my study abroad because everything he has brought me to he has put me in positions of leadership”
Missions trips are life-changing experiences and to be able to take part in one or multiple trips is humbling. To see the world and the people all over the world are to see God and to witness his faithfulness throughout all the cultural barriers that try to separate us from each other. To reach out beyond one’s self is the most inspiring act of compassion – it allows us to be the love of the Father and be loved by him in return, by the extension his beloved family reaching back. With God, the sky is the limit; literally!