Honestly, the first time I was asked to do a short-term mission trip, I agreed only because I could not figure out a good enough reason to say no. I was in college, so I even called my parents because I felt sure that they would want me to come home in the summer . . . but, in fact, their answer was, “You need to do what you think God wants you to do.” I finally committed with my heart and not just my head—and I’ve never stopped. Thank you, Mom and Dad!
So here are a few tips about making the decision the first time, and I say the first time because I do believe that if you go once and do something meaningful, you will continue to find ways to go.
- Don’t expect all of your motives to be spiritual. I think many people do not hear the call of God because they love to travel, love to experience new things, love to meet new people. Who do you think gave you these desires? For what possible reason could He have done this? Instead of viewing these as personal or selfish desires, recognize their intended use and go!
- In two weeks or less, you can change the focus of your life!Especially if you are at one of those critical points in life, where you are trying to decide what you are really doing that is meaningful? People who are now unemployed, who fear unemployment, who are nearing retirement, who are into retirement and finding it boring, who are disabled from physical work, who are unhappy in their profession with just punching a clock—a short-term mission project can give you brand new glasses to see your life with.
- You will never have more fun! Time spent doing the will of God—all day long—will beat fishing, skiing, cruising, touring, hunting—because it is everything you enjoy about these activities wrapped up into the same package, but framed with an eternal purpose. When you show someone how to pray, or tell them who Jesus is for the first time, or hear them trusting you with the burdens of their heart because you care about them; when you see the light of understanding go on in their eyes, when you see your new friend baptized—and the huge smile on their face . . . it is so much more than a great round of golf.
- “Can you afford it” is really the wrong question. The fact is that a two-week mission trip will probably be much less expensive than a two-week vacation. However, your investment in a short-term mission trip will come back to you for the rest of your life—and afterwards. Can you afford not to go? (I’m going to write about raising funds shortly, so watch for those tips too.)
- Age doesn’t matter very much!Eighty-year-olds have gone with LST on missions. Eight-year-olds with their parents have also gone. In many cultures, age is revered. Years ago, a man said to one of our older workers, “I’ve never met a Christian with gray hair.” His comment was the result of too many American Christians thinking that short-term missions were just a youth group or college student activity. A friend of ours in her 70s just lost her husband this year, but she took her grief and her loneliness to eastern Europe to fulfill a mission call. Now she exchanges the grief with the joy of pouring her life out for Christ and the loneliness with all the people God brings to her. Her new life and joy is palpable.
- Be strong and courageous and do not be afraid!Fear is our enemy. God spoke these words to His people over and over again in scripture. Count them up if you don’t believe me—then do something to overcome your fears.
- Don’t procrastinate. Do it soon! Why should you wait? Does it sound like any of the excuses given for not coming to the Great Banquet? (business, relatives, obligations) Don’t surrender your seat at the table because of just couldn’t decide to do it.
I’m not particularly proud of the story of my first decision to go, but I did learn something that stuck with me. Whatever your reasons for not going are, if you will simply set them aside and go, your life will be changed because you are right in the middle of the will of God. I know that is true.