I want to share with you a few things that I learned on my first short term mission trip to a refugee camp last spring. It was a life changing experience; It made me reevaluate my life, and think about what was truly important.
This probably sounds pretty obvious, but for someone who had never even been out of the country, this was a different experience. I wasn’t used to working with a team, so it was a very good and unique experience. Situations unfolded that taught me – if one suffers, we all suffer. And how important it was to speak well of the others on our team instead of tearing them down.
“I’m fine” is the common response to “how are you”, no matter if you’re fine or not. But when I was on my mission trip, I learned that if I am not fine, I need to be honest about that. No matter if it was a physical, spiritual, or emotional ailment, if I had a problem, I needed to be honest. (and that is hard to do – we don’t like to admit our weaknesses)
Power of Prayer
Special memories are made for every mission team, I’m sure. And a few times that we felt bonded together was where praying for something specific. Whether it was problems we were experiencing with the government, refugee camp, or other issues. When our prayers were answered, it was so encouraging!
Stepping out in Faith
This is a hard one… It might be the initial question of “should I go”, and once you’re there, “why did I come”, “what am I supposed to do”, or “am I even making a difference”. But if you felt the Spirit’s leading to go on the trip, let your heart and mind rest in that. Trusting God to show you the next step in your journey is faith building. Spend time asking Him to lead you to people, during your mission trip, that you can minister to.
Most of the time, we face some kind of fear as we think about leaving our family,and traveling to places we may have never been before (as was my case). We think of the worst case scenarios, and replay them. But in the Bible, we read that fear is not of God… He is more than able to keep us, and give our hearts peace. As a fearful person, taking that step in my life was huge; but as I looked to Jesus for help, I experienced more peace than I had ever known before. He was very real, and close to me during my hardest and scariest times. It was a very good opportunity for me to overcome some fears that had plagued me long enough.
We are rich
I don’t like calling myself rich… it makes me feel uncomfortable. I really don’t feel rich; I do have more than enough; plenty to eat, and lots of clothes, a nice house and a warm bed; but I don’t like saying I am rich. But after witnessing life in the refugee camp, I realized I was rich. (and for some it was necessarily a lack of money, but lack of means to obtain things that they needed) Anyway, after seeing people stuffed like sardines into overcrowded compounds, running out of blankets on freezing cold nights, and running out of food, I felt rich. And Spoiled. And even guilty for going back to my apartment and sleeping with two blankets while I knew a little boy was sleeping under the stars on the concrete steps without any at all.
Love speaks every language
Speaking a second language has been something I’ve admired, but never acquired… so English is my one and only language! While there was quite a number of refugees that could speak English, there was some that couldn’t. And when that happened, what could I do? Well, I learned a smile is universal, and an act of kindness is understood without words. Even though we couldn’t talk, we communicated.
When serving God, we find joy in the ‘small’ jobs
This goes for living in America, too! Serving tea, sweeping concrete floors, picking up trash… These are not glamorous jobs – but when we are halfway across the world we usually do them in a different spirit… Sweeping for refugees, or sitting on mud floors in Africa… But what about here? Can we do them in the same joyful spirit? Serving our church, or our family? (I realize that there is a time where we need to move on and serve the Lord outside of our home, or even America. But if, for now, you are at home, serve your family the same way you would serve on the field )
Anywhere is a mission field
So this kind of ties into my point above…We witness to people on other continents, serve them, and pour out our life for them. But when we get home, we get back into normal life, and forget that souls are souls …. whether they be here or there. I desire a mindset that sees every place as a mission field; giving and serving with the same zeal as I do elsewhere.
God is Powerful
A camp with thousands of men and women, mostly Islamic, it seems unlikely that it would become a place where souls would meet God. But many people came to Christ in that place. Touched by the love and care shown by the volunteers, He moved in their broken hearts, and they reached out for something better.