“Go on a mission trip. It will change your life.”
This is somewhat of a mantra in my church.
“Serve in one of our ministries and you’ll experience amazing life change and become godly in ways you’ve never dreamed.”
“Go on a mission trip and you’ll return a fresh new person with eyes to see the world like Jesus does.”
For me, this has always seemed like a cheap ploy to get people to serve, resting on our human selfishness to motivate us into action. I love serving and using the gifts that I know God has given me to give to the Kingdom. I have served in middle school ministry, high school ministry, adult ministry, and through short term missions – ask me to serve, and I’m there.
However, I have never experienced any of these dramatic, profound moments with God that our church has promised. In my view, serving has always been an act of love and obedience to God, but the true benefit is for the one served, not the servant.
When my friend Ashley invited us to join her team on the first Carry 117 trip, my husband Sean and I immediately jumped on board. We didn’t even talk about it. We just signed up.
From the moment we landed in Addis Ababa, our trip was exactly what I expected it to be, while somehow being nothing like what I thought it would be. We experienced deep poverty and unbridled joy, pain and brokenness and deepest love. There are not words to capture it all. It was simultaneously the most beautiful and difficult week of my life.
Throughout the course of the week, God placed me in so many situations where I felt uncomfortable, out of my element, and out of control. I found myself scrambling for the right words as I sat in an orphanage with children with disabilities, wanting to brighten their days while trying not to cry.
I found myself sitting in the kitchen with beautiful Alem, the cook, trying to bond and build a relationship with no common language and without a translator.
I found myself talking to men more spiritually and intellectually advanced than I am, trying to hold my weight in conversations way above my head without revealing my inadequacies.
I found myself feeling vulnerable and ashamed as I shared my testimony in the back of a van to girls far younger, yet far wiser and more faithful than I ever have been.
These moments were so difficult and challenging for me that it took every ounce of strength I had not to run back to my comfort zone and hide behind my known strengths.
I am so grateful for every ugly moment of vulnerability, inadequacy, and discomfort. Those moments where I wanted to run and hide were the ones that changed me. They transformed me, empowered me, and revealed new truths about the strength of the Holy Spirit in me and my true identity as a child of God.
Safe service, comfortable volunteering, and casual encounters with God do not change your life. Taking risks, stepping outside of the boundaries of your comfort, and letting the grace of God cover your gaps will transform your heart and renew your mind.
God changed my life on the Carry 117 trip, and I cannot wait to go back.