Mission trips are so much more than just a trip. They are an open invitation for God to mold and shape your heart, to create the ongoing masterpiece of you.
My youth leader always told my group that we needed to break out of our comfort zone and just go for it. Okay, like that was going to happen. I liked being in my box of security and that is exactly where I was going to stay.
It unfortunately took me five trips, but I finally understood what the youth leader was trying to express to us. On sixth and most recent trip, it finally clicked. The more you allow yourself to bend and stretch, the greater the opportunity God has to work in your life.
Looking back on my past trips, I have found the most memorable moments were when I was taken—more like yanked—out of my comfort zone.
On one trip in particular, I volunteered as a CIA (Christian in Action) at Camp Barnabas in Missouri. It is a place where children and adults with physical or mental disabilities can experience summer camp for a week like an unrestricted kid could experience camp.
Being a CIA went way beyond the role of camp counselor and entered into the realm of caretaker. I helped during the week dedicated to children and adults with autism and Down syndrome, ranging from mild to severe. During training, CIAs were paired with a camper and were told that they were responsible for the camper 23 hours of the day and the remaining one hour was their own time.
I was paired with a young woman named Rita. She was 22 and had a developmental delay and was the mental age of a 6-year-old girl. She had a very short attention span and tested every ounce of patience I had. It was the hardest thing I have ever been through and I sobbed every day for the entire week because I was stressed and thought I was failing my camper.
By God’s amazing grace I was able to make it through the week. At the very end of the week, our cabin leaders asked us to reflect on the events of the week and to really think about how we saw God in our campers. For me, it was easy. We, as humans, are exactly like my camper. We get sidetracked so easily, but God is always there to remind us to stay on track and to keep us focused on our end goal, to live for him. He is the ultimate CIA.
I can guarantee that you will not return from a mission trip the same person as you were when you left. There is just something about leaving home; it strips you of all familiarity and forces you to learn about who you are at the core.
It’s a revolutionary experience. For me, it’s where I cling to God the most. I find where I feel exposed and out of my comfort zone, I turn to the one who has insurmountable strength, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
When you’re on a trip and fear and discouragement come—I promise it will happen at least once—look to Jesus. Does he look afraid? He knows exactly what he has planned for you and is wanting to hold your hand through the entire thing Mission trips are way more than a trip or a plane ticket to a tropical or exotic location. They are a way of drawing closer to my savior and uncovering the plans he has for my life.
Lanie Steigner is a senior chemistry major.