Every mission trip is a risk. Whether or not it qualifies as “successful” depends on each individual’s expectations.Our family mission trip to Greensburg, Kansas included 31 people and 31 different expectations, some high, some low.
When the initial idea for a Christmas service project began circulating among us via email, several responded resoundingly in the negative: “I’m flying home to spend Christmas… at home. My vote is not to go.”
Others were enthusiastic: “Great idea! Count me in!“
My personal prayers were for each of us to step closer to the Lord from wherever we currently stood as a result of the trip. In reality, we landed somewhere short of that but did, I believe, accomplish some valuable results.
Much of our construction work was done on a home being built to replace one lost in the storm. The new house, paid for by homeowner’s insurance, was going to be gorgeous with a room-sized entryway, a stone fireplace wall, an exposed staircase and a sizeable kitchen. Although this family wasn’t financially needy, emotionally they were starving.
The first day we worked at drywalling, taping and spackling, but several of our workers had sour attitudes. “These people don’t need us,” they said. “What are we doing here?”
But when the owners came to greet us and thank us for coming, the wife described their four minutes of terror as the monster tornado roared through town. She broke down and wept as she told of their fear for family members when they couldn’t bring everyone together. One of their children still hasn’t returned to Greensburg because she can’t shake nightmares about the tornado. Another was making plans to move away permanently.
Before we left at the end of the week, this same woman asked if we would all put our signatures on the concrete walls of her new basement storm shelter. During the next tornado (and there are many in Kansas), she knew they’d all be edgy, even protected by walls two feet thick. But, she said, “I’ll gain courage by rereading your names, remembering the love that prompted you to help us.”
Was it really love? For some it was, “I don’t want to go, but know I should, so I will.” Was there a positive result even for these?
Those of our children who’ve been on many mission trips say there’s always a mixed bag of results. One important benefit is being required to live in community with others around the clock. This includes a willingness to eat simply and occasionally not at all. It means sleeping on the floor, waiting for the bathroom and being patient to teach others how to do the work. All of this happened with excellence on our mission trip.
I also remember watching unusual conversational groups pop up as we worked on four teams. Mild competition injected laughter into the tasks, and evening get-togethers saw high school kids partnering with oldsters, and babies in the arms of non-baby people. Cousins with a decade of years between them talked and came to appreciate each other in new ways. Extended time with family and without access to cell phones or computers was unique in our history, a tremendous blessing. All of these unexpected benefits are treasured still.
Would we ever do it again?
In a minute.
”Serve the Lord with gladness. Be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” (Psalm 100:2,4)