Maybe you’ve heard this, maybe more than once. Maybe this question is what’s keeping you from going away for a mission trip. What do you say when the church leaders pop the ultimate deal-killer of a question…
“Why can’t we just do that here?”
On the face of it, this seems an impossible question to answer. After all, almost any of the work you do on a mission trip could be done just as easily where you live…couldn’t it? Yes…if a mission trip is all about repairing homes, or community service or teaching VBS or any of the other things you might do on a mission trip. But mission trips aren’t just about what you’re doing. They’re about the whole complex process of pushing teens out of their comfort zone for the sake of building relationships and creating space for them to experience God. Here’s how it works…
No, this doesn’t mean your trip is to a deserted island! Isolation means getting away from a familiar environment where no one can escape. Let’s face it, when you try to do a project locally this is what you get…
- Sure I can be there…except Tuesday when my mom wants me to take my brother to swim lessons. Oh, and Wednesday coach wants us in the weight room by one so I’ll just be there in the morning.
- My boss won’t let me off Thursday and Friday. My friends are taking off early to go to Tommy’s parent’s lake house. But I can be there the rest of the week.
- I’ll be there but I’m coming late every day ‘cause I promised my dad I’d clean out the garage.
Maybe you get the work done but you miss the real impact of going on a mission trip. When you go away from home you cut the connection. Being three hundred miles away eliminates all the excuses. You get work done but you get so much more including a stronger bond among your young people and the adults who go with them.
If you’ve ever had a spoonful of frozen juice concentrate, you know what a powerful experience that can be. Once you add water, it’s just juice, but if you want something out of the ordinary, there’s nothing quite like juice concentrate. The same is true with mission experiences. Do one around home and your young people might see it as just helping out around home. Go to a community unlike yours, spend 24/7 with members of your group and get busy doing things you don’t normally do (like swing a hammer or teach a third grader about Jesus) and WHAM! You’ve tasted concentrate.
You’ve been challenged and stretched in a way that just doesn’t happen at home. You’ve seen your friends in their extremes, when pretend doesn’t hold up, and masks fall off. Now you’re getting down to what’s real. Top it off with the fact that you get to interpret this concentrated experience through the eyes of faith and nothing can match the power of going away for a mission trip.
Inspiration is a spiritual experience. Moving away from what you know, and spending time in a place that you might never otherwise experience, is inspirational. It touches your spirit. A mission trip isn’t a vacation. On a mission trip, you go where tourists are never allowed…into the lives of real people. You drive the side streets and back roads. You spend time in the homes and touch the hearts of people you might not otherwise ever meet. When those connections happen you can feel the Holy Spirit at work in your life and see him at work in the lives of others.
And it’s Biblical. When Elijah was at his wits end and needed renewal, God took him away from home. He showed his power but spoke in a still, small voice. There, in a strange place and away from the stuff of home, Elijah was inspired. He returned home renewed and changed by his encounter with God (1 Kings 19).
The power of a mission trip isn’t found in any one element. It’s not the work or the travel or the time or the distance. A mission trip becomes much more than the sum of its parts when all the parts are put together. So the next time a leader at your church asks…
“Why can’t we just do that here?” …you can say, “If it was just about the work we could, but the most important parts of a mission trip just can’t happen at home.”