I was asked today about taking a mission trip to Southeast Asia. Why would anyone want to go overseas for weeks at a stretch when there’s plenty to do here—including earning some money?
Widen your world: No matter how many posts we read, we’re often drawn to what we already know, what we think. What if an overseas mission trip could widen thinking the way new food expands a palate? Living and interacting with local people overseas will do that. Besides, you can only get so far binge-watching zombie TV and home improvement shows (or even both together—The Caulking Dead?). Even after only four weeks of living with citizens of another country, developing an altered worldview is nearly guaranteed. Taking part of a summer for a mission trip can stretch your understanding and open your heart to serve and love people in a new way.
Eat weird stuff: Life on an overseas mission trip can look like so many things. Eating fried grasshoppers. Barging through a roundabout in a packed jitney. Camel rides. Bargaining at the market with your two local language words (“Too much”). Sweating through your shirt in a tropical forest. Snowballs in July (think mountains and/or southern hemisphere). Cheeky monkeys grabbing your papaya when your back is turned. Whether you love new places or tense up even thinking about getting a passport, mission trips provide serious jolts of adrenaline and adventure in a life that our Creator intended to be packed. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Why not fill up on something satisfying—even better than insect protein?
Get educated: It’s fun to take classes that tell you about other places. You can read books and posts and hear talks. You may have even observed or become friends with people from other countries. But to get a handle on how people live in other places you need to see the lights, hear the horns, ride the bikeways, breathe the smog, smell the durian. As you initiate your own lessons, firsthand conversations can take the place of book learning. Waiting on a train platform and striking up a conversation, you may discover what Norwegians (or Filipinos or Dominicans) really think of America (maybe mixed reviews?), because most people have some opinion. If you’re there to learn humbly, serve others, and reflect Jesus, you can glorify God while gaining barrels of experience (Philippians 2:3-4ff). Return to the States with a summer full of credits in God-aided cultural awareness.
Develop yourself: Mission trips bear a cost, but they do have a way of changing people. You can unpack your bags in your home, but after living with local hosts overseas for weeks you’ll carry a different perspective with you wherever you go. Whether you take your seat in front of an Kenyan lecturer in Psych 201, make friends with a Chinese student in your dorm, orient a visitor on a National Guard base, or walk into a job interview anywhere, an overseas missions experience can make a difference. While God can develop your mindset through your overseas service, consider that He may want to use your newly reoriented worldview in surprising ways.
Worship God: Why even go overseas at all? Could it really do any good? God seems to want others to know Him—no matter where they were born. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). If you go on a well-prepared mission trip—a trip planned with your hosts’ and host country’s welfare in mind—you’ve got a good chance to not only benefit others but also grow in your own walk with God. You’ll likely learn new ways to worship Him and maybe contribute, even in a small way, to helping others do the same. John Piper said, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Mission trips can grow the worship of God—by us and others. If you’re worshiping the Father, He can use you so that your knowledge of Him is deepened and passed along to others. And that just might be worth the cost.
Navigators World Missions offers short-term missions trips throughout the year. Each opportunity plays an important part in serving long-term missionaries who are discipling the nations. Browse the opportunities now and spend your next summer making a long-term impact on others through a short-term trip.