by Jason Wilde
Why should you go on a foreign mission trip?
On our first mission trip to The Philippines a year ago, it felt good to gauge myself on what I had accomplished - build a roof, pay for medicine, pray over the sick, etc. Many people (including myself) get a bit frustrated when we spend the first three days of a trip ‘just visiting people’. But this is all just our human gauge of success, which has very little to do with how God sees our productivity.
Now a year and three mission trips later, my perspective on this idea has changed. I think my shift in perspective began in part because of some questions we are asked at the end of each FMC mission trip, which include:
It’s amazing to hear the responses to these two questions, as they are a pretty good indicator of what we value in the time spent during those precious days of service. During that first trip, I thought of the memories, experiences, and souvenirs that I took with me, and the gifts and time that I left behind. Answers like this remind me of an article by Mike Gable which essentially asks “Why do you go on a foreign mission trip?” In his article, he points out several examples of trips which leave behind many things but actually do very little good. It is in these cases where it may feel good to leave behind something tangible, but in reality you do very little good and take away only a sense of pride and heroism. I think he pretty much nailed it when he asks us to instead be humble and “invite that Spirit of God to transform our hearts, minds, and souls to be open to the faith, gifts, talents, joy and yes, challenges of people of other cultures.”
Similarly, I believe it is not what you leave behind, but what you take with you that has the most impact from a mission trip. It is not just what you change, but how the mission trip changes you. It is not the photos, ‘likes’, and memories that are important to God, but the relationships with real people who you leave behind.
When we returned home from The Philippines, my perspective on what it means to live in poverty was very different. For the remainder of lent, our family fasted from meat after learning that most people survived on very little more than rice every day. We had relationships with many of the local families that we worked with, and after the attacks by ISIS nearly a month after we returned, I had a true sense of care for these people who had to live under a constant threat. I realized that my addiction to media and my phone was in no way improving my relationship with anyone but my own ego - and it was a huge distraction from my prayer life. Most importantly, I also had a sense of solidarity and a feeling of responsibility to talk to people about the injustices that we saw and experienced in that week of mission.
While these may all seem like irrelevant intangibles in the grand sense of missionary work, I believe they are more valued in God’s eyes than any sweat or money. To “embrace life, touching the suffering flesh of the poor” (Pope Francis) is something that you can’t forget - that truly changes you - and it is this change of heart that is more valuable than any tangible thing that you may leave behind.
On a Mission
Two passionate parents and their four children are excited to bring His Word to everyone in need while living a life of Gospel poverty as missionaries. They invite you to join them on a journey to encounter our global neighbors that Jesus commands us to love through works of charity and service.