God wove a common thread through all of my mission trips: I had a spiritual faceplant in every one.
Mission trip leaders counseled me regarding how the enemy attacks when people step out into God’s purpose for their lives. Being the hands and feet of Jesus on a mission trip comes at a cost. Satan loves to bring you down, incapacitate you, and prevent you from making a difference or seeing the benefits of a servant’s heart.
(church in Mexico)
(featured photo above: building walls in Alaska)
As I took part in my mission trips, moments occurred when the less than wonderful parts of my personality bubbled to the surface: impatience, rigidity, and vocalness. The trip magnified what I struggle with on a day to day basis. I stumbled. I reacted. I felt shame.
In Haiti during my trip in 2010, significant political unrest plagued the country. Flights were canceled, and Samaritan’s Purse had to arrange a special plane to take the missionaries on my team out of Haiti.
(the plane that finally came to take us home in Haiti)
While we were there, we worked 24-hour stints and changed shifts at 2am in order to avoid the protests and road blockades (the poor didn’t have electricity and unrest died down in the middle of the night). At work, we received a 3-hour sleep break to rest in a container (back of a semi-truck) in 100-degree heat.
(I took pictures in India, and these kids followed, taking pictures of me)
When my turn to sleep arrived, I went to the container with two other medical missionaries. One snored and the sounds reverberated off of the metal container walls. I couldn’t sleep a wink. I was so frustrated my eyes filled with tears.
I went back out to the makeshift hospital and began working. Another missionary approached me to ask how I was, and I snapped at her.
(view of the Yukon in Alaska)
I’m not proud of this and I later apologized, but I don’t typically deal with my own fatigue well. I’ve had to put big limits on my time: my phone goes on “Do Not Disturb” at 9pm. If I allow calls to come in, I stay up past midnight. When I’m so starved for sleep, I’m not at my best. The mission trip exacerbated a deep issue so that I could begin to deal with it. This is one of many examples.
I continue to go on mission trips because I want to help others and because I want God to change my heart, grant me patience, and help me promote peace and justice at the same time. But, that won’t happen without my efforts, my willingness to endure and to learn.
So often we stay where we are comfortable, enacting the same patterns over and over again in our lives while being unhappy with the results. How does this make any sense?
(placing the roof supports in Mexico)
Mission trips are opportunities for growth, both inside and out. A person needs to be willing to step outside of what is familiar to reach others. For me, this process reshapes my heart. I’m not strong enough to do it on my own. In my own strength, I faceplant.
Heading to Honduras, K.