I sat restlessly next to my brother on a wooden pew doodling and hoping we would soon be freed from this stuffy prison called Baptist Church. Even if you didn’t grow up in a stuffy Baptist church, you know what I’m talking about because you’ve seen it portrayed in movies. This day was even more boring, as an elderly missionary couple was clicking through a slideshow of their life’s work as missionaries in Africa. What little I heard not only bored me but planted a tiny seed of fear in me; fear that what they were doing was the most Christian thing anyone could do and maybe God wanted me to go to Africa someday.
Over the years of growing up in church I was relieved time and time again when the pastors & youth group leaders would say “You don’t have to go to Africa to serve God. We need to be sharing the Gospel right here at home!” (They always used Africa in their example because it’s perceived as the most distant and poverty stricken continent). I’ve told myself over and over “God gave me talents as an artist, that’s what I’ll always do for Him”. For the most part I really never thought much about missionaries or their work.
My First Mission Trip
In high school our youth pastor organized a week long trip to Piedres Negras in Mexico (a border city that becomes Eagle Pass, Texas). I can’t even remember what made me want to go, but it was probably because “everyone else” was going. I say that because I have no recollection of having a heart for Mexicans as being my driving force. What I remember of the trip has a lot more to do with the long drive from Craig, Colorado, to Denver and then straight south all the way through Texas. I vaguely remember doing “Vacation Bible School” with kids in a backyard and vividly remember the girl in our group I had a crush on and thinking about her the whole trip. I remember one of our youth leaders being terrified of border patrol and possibly getting stuck in Mexico with a bunch of high schoolers. I remember feeling like we didn’t accomplish much on the trip.
Missions in College
In college I was involved in a group at Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University) called Master Plan Ministries. The leaders, Kyle and Mich Kostreva began, my sophomore year, taking students to Lake Havasu, Arizona to try and share Jesus with partying college students on Spring Break. I went on this trip two years in a row and the trips are what we like to call in the church “suffering for Jesus” trips, tongue in cheek. It’s a trip where go to a beautiful beach & ride in boats, play music and camp out with the intention of starting conversations with the partying college students. It’s one of the most awkward ways to “witness” but I hope at least a few student’s lives were changed because of our nerdy Frisbees with Ephesians 2:8&9 on them.
Dreams of Seeing the World
At some time in our lives I imagine all of us start to dream of “seeing the world” regardless of why or having some purpose behind it. I think I was somewhat late on thinking about that kind of thing. In your single and college years there are many opportunities to travel whether it’s studying abroad, Greenpeace or doing the “backpacking through Europe” thing. I think, through most of college and a few years after, I just didn’t see myself as a traveler (mainly because of the cost!)
Things began to change when my girlfriend in college talked about a three month trip she took to Kenya. She described the sunsets as the largest and most beautiful she’d ever seen. Her bedroom was decorated in an African theme with leopard print and various souvenirs she’d brought back including a Masai spear. She showed me pictures and talked about this “alien world” with such passion and longing. She told me of the host family, a safari and the people. She yearned to one day return. Something in me began to be really curious about Africa and start to see missionaries as these humble unsung heroes out there helping people and spreading the Gospel. And what was I doing? Well…going to college…but nothing really.
All of this sort of settled in the back of my head for years and over time, I would hear things here & there about short term missions. I heard about Paz Japan and thought about how much I loved Japanese culture. I heard a friend telling me she was determined to go on a mission to Africa. I would think things like “One day I will do that” but money was always holding me back. Honestly I was also afraid of going so far away for so long. After one friend went on a six month trip to New Zealand wit YWAM and she was “back before we knew it” I started to think, ‘if I’d just go, I’d be back before I knew it!’. Another girl went to Japan for an entire year and I couldn’t believe how fast it went!
Break My Heart for What Breaks Yours
During these years God was (and still is) at work on my heart. He was teaching me to start thinking of others and less of myself. He began giving me compassion for the sick & poor around the world. Compassion International and World Vision videos would make me cry and I had to ask myself ‘If you’re this moved by this, when are you going to do something about it?’. God was also teaching me to be more generous. Once He changed my mindset, I began to see that I enough money for some short term trips.
I started to hear about a yearly trip led by Tim Nutting at Canyon View Vineyard Church. It was called “Homes of Hope” in conjunction with YWAM. I finally went to one of the informational meetings in late 2006 in which Tim told us the cost (at the time) was only $500 for a week down to Ensenada, Mexico. We would travel down, build a house and even have a day to be tourists before traveling back home. This was it! I was going to jump in and do it! I had vacation time and could let go of $500 for this! I was going to Mexico!
And So the Adventure Begins!
This category of my blog is devoted to all the amazing adventures God has led me on in short term missions and I plan to write highlights from each trip in following blog posts. After that first trip I realized that I could easily combine a desire to see the world on my vacations with God’s call to go & make disciples and to look after widows and orphans. Maybe even every year! I knew my trips wouldn’t be relaxing vacations and some people told me that’s no way to relax. But my heart and perspective has been changed and I now I see this as the least I can do. I have so many friends and know so many people who have gone for months at time and done so much more than I will ever do…it always makes me feel stupid for talking about anything I’ve done. And the true heroes to me are those who have given their entire lives to leave the USA and live in strange cultures just because they want people to know Jesus! The greatest examples of this I have seen so far is the Hubers with Paz Japan! Their lives and stories dwarf anything I could ever possibly do!
I’m writing this with no other hope than to inspire you! I hope that if it’s money holding you back, you’ll see how someone like me could fork over the cash (ask my friends how frugal I am!!), if it’s fear that you see the adventure in God’s plan to use you!, if it’s time I hope you can see that your vacations will be far more rewarding when you go to help people than if you go to eat lots of food & sit on a beach in the sun! I don’t mean to demean you if you’ve done or do that (I have too). You don’t have to use every vacation either and guess what! On many of these trips I’ve gotten to go to beaches and do fun things anyway!
So here goes. Your mission, should you choose to accept is…..
14s (start at 1:13)
Also check out this video edited by Megan Wood of our 2009 trip to Uganda (also footage from her 2010 trip) So inspiring!!