Last time I blogged I left off with my return from Baja, drained of all emotion and thought. I’m pretty sure I left Baja more confused about God’s calling on my life than ever. Mission trips had always brought a sense of clarity for me, they had always been a time of refocusing on what is important and remembering God’s call on my life. But this time was different. I didn’t feel refreshed, renergized, or refocused at all. This made me wonder if missions wasn’t my call after all.
I graduated that summer and we had yet another change in leadership. Our youth pastor left and then we experienced this odd time of guest speakers and interviews that went on for a while. With all the transition that went on in youth group and in our church, we went all of 2011 without a single mission trip. I’m going to shoot straight here, that year was a hard one spiritually. I am in no way blaming the lack of mission trips on my spiritual life, but that year was the first year since 2005 that I had not gone on a trip. And it effected me more than I thought it would.
In May of 2012 we had a new youth pastor, one who had mission work as a focus point. I was so excited for that. I had already, with my dad’s help, signed up to go on a medical mission trip to Haiti in June, and I was anticipating that trip like it was Christmas.
In June of 2012 I went to Haiti. This trip was, like all trips are, different than the ones I had been on before. This trip was through a gentleman at our church, and it wasn’t exactly a God-based trip. I went with a group of about forty doctors, surgeons, and nurses that preformed surgeries starting four hours after we arrived and ending six hours before we left. There was no large group Bible studies or worship time. It was a big change, but not a bad one. Having no prior medical experience, I put myself in a supporting role and helped out in the kitchen. I cooked and cleaned from 5:30am to 12:00 midnight every day. I was exhausted by the end of the small amount of time I was there, but strangely refreshed.
In between my cooking and cleaning duties I was able to sit outside and do some thinking while gazing at the prettiest scenery I’ve ever seen. I had been struggling that year with the question every young person asks themselves, “What am I doing with my life?” I thought for sure that the mission field was my calling, but after my feelings in 2010 and 2011, I simply didn’t know.
At one point in Haiti I simply said to God, “I don’t know what You want from me anymore! I was so sure, but now I don’t know!” In that moment of absolute frustration, God made it clear to me that He didn’t care what I did.
I know how that sounds. But what God said to me was that if I was a teacher, then I should use that to bring people to Him. If I was a children’s minister, use that to bring people to Him. Missionary? Do the same. And let me tell you, I felt a peace that day that I hadn’t felt in a long time. My decisions won’t ruin God’s plans.
Holding on to that promise, I came back home and the next month was able to go on a mission trip with our youth group as a leader. I’ve never felt so old in my life. I was just taking part of these trips as a student, how am I old enough to be a leader? It was insane. Being with those students in Atlanta really helped me see how mission trips can change you at a young age. I spent time with girls on their first mission trip and thought to myself, “Wow, look at what God can do.” I was their age on my first trip. It was exciting to watch them change and grow even in that week. It reminded me of myself and how much I had changed.
Do I know for sure what God wants from me because of the mission trips I’ve been on? No. But I do know that I know more about God and His nature than I ever have before. I know, without a doubt, that God has a plan for me, and I know that it will be an adventure, no matter where it takes me. I also know that mission work will always be a part of my life, no matter what.
My heart has been changed, my faith has been strengthened, and my soul has been filled. That is why missions matter.