If you were to ask me to list moments in my life that God has been present, speaking, and obviously working in my heart, I would immediately begin to talk your ears off about the mission trips I’ve been on. The experiences I have had have been like nothing I could imagine, in good and in bad ways.
I can still remember my first mission trip. It was the summer of 2005, and I had just finished the 7th grade. I had decided that I was not going on a mission trip; I had no desire to leave home and as an almost 8th grader I knew everything, right? But my parents made me go, and I went ALL the way to Tampa, FL, a full two hours away from my house. But for me at that point, that was very much out of my comfort zone, I could have been in a different country and it would have felt the same. Halfway through our week-long trip, something changed in me. I began to realize the meaning behind the trip, the reason I was there, was so that God could get me away from my little world, break me down, and then fill me with Him. It was beautiful and it was hard, but I know I came back different. Yes, I know that is cliché, but it is true.
In the summer of 2006, I was actually a bit excited to go on a mission trip. We went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina had come and ravaged the city. I remember this trip being the first time I had seen devastation to that extent. I clearly recall praying, God where are you? How could you let this happen? Why? The lost lives and homes seemed so pointless. As this week went on though, I came to the realization that there was a serious spiritual battle going on in this city, and it was obvious as we walked down Bourbon Street. Everything was up and running, as if the hurricane had never come. People’s homes were destroyed, but the night life was thriving. I was disgusted. That was the week that my prayer life grew from cookie-cutter prayers to outpourings of my heart.
The summer of 2007 brought a lot of firsts in my life. In June I went on my first plane ride and in the very same day left the United States for the first time, ever. This mission trip was to Jamaica and let me tell you something, it was amazing. The culture was so different from mine, and the beauty all around me was overwhelming. Going to Jamaica and becoming a part of the culture there for a short time made me realize a few things that were missing in my own culture. I distinctly remember my first Sunday service there. We sang/danced/bounced? to a few songs out of a hymnal, a book that many people in my group had never seen before, and then the pastor came up and preached. He probably spoke for an hour, during that time many “Amen!”, “Hallelujah!” and “Praise Jesus!” were exclaimed, something I wasn’t really used to. After the message, we sang some more and then the floor was just open to whoever felt led to speak. Being used to a definite program, this surprised me to no end. Jamaica in 2007 taught me that it is always better to let the Spirit lead.
2008. That was a game-changer. I went to Jamaica again, same place, same church even. One of the girls from the year before had taken a picture with me on my last day in 2007, and she came up to me with that photo and said, “Do you remember me? Because I remember you!” My heart melted. One night, our pastor asked us one simple question. “If you could do anything without fear of failing, what would you do?” My heart said missions. My mind argued for quite some time, and honestly still does. I don’t know if missions is my full-time calling, or if it is simply supposed to be something I constantly do, but I do know that in 2008, God told me that mission work needs to be a part of my life. So I made it just that.
To be continued…..(because I have so much more to say still!)