While preparing for this summer’s upcoming mission trips, I have been reflecting a lot on my own mission trip experiences. My first mission trip was the summer after sixth grade and I still remember it quite vividly. This trip came at the end of a children’s leadership program at my church. We spent three years learning about what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. At the end of the program, we went on a weekend mission trip to put our faith in action. This program was a significant part of my faith formation as a child and I still remember aspects of it clearly. Some of my memories are silly, like the week we learned about David and Goliath and threw marshmallows at one of our leaders who had peanut butter on his forehead, but most of my memories are from the trip.
We worked together as a team all year to come up with a plan and to raise money. We stayed at a camp a couple hours from our hometown and helped them with some painting and cleaning projects, but the heart of our trip was working with an adult special needs home. We spent time visiting with the residents and learning about their lives. We then created a prayer garden in the backyard of their home. Building the garden and picking out the bench, flowers and paving stones are special memories from that time in my life. The residents were so excited to have a dedicated prayer space and they were extremely appreciative of having a beautiful space to go and connect with God. My friends and I were deeply moved by their excitement and desire to be close to God, we also felt a great sense of accomplishment planning and executing a project from start to finish.
The experience I had on this first trip is one that I want for my students. I want them to experience living out their faith, experience sharing the love of Christ with strangers, experience hard work and to accomplish clear goals. As I have been preparing the logistics for the upcoming mission trips, I have been striving to stop and remember my own experiences and to be continually praying that my students will be transformed and restored the way I was on my first trip.