What Does It Take?
With less than thirty days until our big trip, I am finding myself surprisingly calm and collected. This pilot trip to the Philippines will be like no other adventure I have yet experienced. A rush of excitement, fear, anticipation, and apprehension all seem to flood over me, often all at once. Preparing for a trip like this takes much more planning than a vacation, and I am an avid “planner,” there’s no trip or event too big for my ambitions! But a mission trip is a whole other level of planning, mostly because we have to consult someone vastly more prestigious for our every decision, God.
So for those friends and family who have maybe wondered all of these years, I would like to share a glimpse of the journey of preparing for an adventure such as this…
Firstly there must be a vision. Luckily my husband is a “vision-caster.” And I say luckily because discerning not only the voice of God but also the will of God, correctly, can be a very challenging task. Years ago when my husband was on a trip in Laos he met a remarkable man named Joie, a native Filipino. Over the years this acquaintance developed into a brotherhood. I believe God often uses relationships to reveal His will to us, and that was the case with the Philippines.
At least a year ago my husband “got the idea” that one day a team from our church would partner with this friend, Joie, and we would serve the Filipino people. He knew not the details, just a vague vision. Along with the affirmation of his wife (that’s me!) and the church, faithfully he cultivated this idea into a plan.
Most foundationally, the purpose of a mission trip is to spread the gospel of Christ. But beyond that, we hope to find a platform to speak into the lives of the people we meet, a way to meet both their spiritual and physical needs. Whether that be agriculturally, economically, or otherwise, our purpose is to find a way to bridge the gap between us by forming a common goal that will ultimately lead to Christ bridging the gap between the lost and the loving Father that so desperately longs to have fellowship with them.
For this trip, our purpose will be finding out that physical need (because we already know their spiritual need). Our guide, Joie, has been doing ground work for us for months and has narrowed it down to three main areas that we will visit. Upon visiting these tribes we expect God to make plain to us which one and in what way we are to partner alongside.
“If you wanted to build a building, you would first sit down and decide how much it would cost. You must see if you have enough money to finish the job.” (Luke 14:28) There are many practical logistics to a mission trip as well. Typically mission trips are composed of a team led by a leader(s). It is the role of the team leader to train and equip the others for the situations they will encounter in this unknown land, but ultimately it is up to the individual to see the training through.
Whether your mission trip is ten days, two months, or indefinitely, training is very useful physically, mentally, and spiritually. Physically it is helpful to be prepared for any situation: hiking for hours in the heat or rain, carrying heavy loads, eating unusual foods, encountering illnesses, and sleeping in less favorable conditions are just a few I have experienced. Mentally it is helpful to think clearly, know your way around an airport, utilize resources, and not cave in under pressure. But being spiritually prepared is the most significant. Relying on God to open doors of opportunity, walking in blind faith at times, and seeking guidance for every minute of your time are just a few of the basics.
Each day is a new opportunity to prove that God calls and provides: from the cost of the trip (which is usually more than I ever spend one anything!), to taking the time off from work, to going into an unknown land, to submerging yourself with people who do not speak your language, to wondering how on earth God plans to actually use you. Faith is the only thing that will get you through.
In conglomeration, all of these aspects merge together to form my favorite aspect of mission trips: making sacrifices for the good of others. These ten days in the Philippines will be ten solid days where my life is not about me, at all. Sure I’m a Christian, and I live for Jesus every day. But in this concentrated time, living for Jesus is amplified. It’s about learning, being used, experience, risk, adventure, but ultimately it’s about God’s glory.
“Missions is not the goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” (John Piper)