Usually when you start preparing for 2 months or more of volunteering/serving in another country you feel exhilarated about all the new things/people/food/culture you are about to experience. And you should! Serving overseas is no small task and it’s a step that I cheer about every time someone makes the gigantic leap from wanting to serve and actually starting the process, raising funds and getting on a plane. I say WAY to GO to everyone who actually does it. Amazing and beautiful!
Some of your initial thoughts may be, “I’ve been on a missions trip so this will be a piece of cake!“ But there is a big difference between a missions trip (a visit) and serving for a few months. One gives you a taste of the mission’s world and the other gives you the full meal deal. Your first inkling that what you are embarking on isn’t just a taste test is the time factor. After 10 days on a missions trip you are heading to an airport back to your family, mom’s cooking and your own soft bed! When you are staying in a foreign country for a few months after a few weeks the excitement can start to wear off and you start longing for pancakes and maple syrup! When you come to serve, you still have a return ticket, which lets you know the trip WILL come to an end, but as days turn into months, that return date can seem like an eternity away. A missions trip includes a translator; a team and you bringing lots of wonderful gifts and programs to those you came to serve. None of those things are part of the serving experience. You are alone or maybe with one other brave soul, you can’t communicate, and you’ve got “nothing” to offer as you usually are hanging on to every penny so you can make it to the end without running out of cash. You also feel very hindered by the inability to say any more than hello and thank you. At about day 10 you will probably ask yourself. “What have I done?”
Why serve short term instead of just coming on a missions trip? You can compare the missions trip to going to a great concert and loving the experience because it was so amazing to hear such a talented band. The euphoria wears off as quickly as singing the tunes does and within a couple of days you are over it and on to the next new hit. It was still a great time, but the high you received was very short lived. If however, you got on the bus and travelled with the artists for 2 months, listened to them practice 24/7, went from city to city, watched them write songs, set up and tear down, fight with other band members and deal with adoring fans you’d get a real taste of what it means to be a rock star. For some people it would be the icing on the cake that YES this is what they were born to do and others would rather just go buy a CD. The difference however on a short term trip is even if you don’t fully enjoy the experience you still may be compelled make it a life long decision. Serving others really isn’t about you or what you like. That can be a bitter pill to swallow, but it really can be the most incredible thing you learn while doing it. If you don’t feel the missions life is for you, you still can return home a different person by spending less, praying more and being an advocate for the those in the missions world.
A short-term trip means you really taste and see what it means to be a missionary; a missions trip means you get an adventure with memories that last a lifetime. Short term trips also give you and the Lord a chance to have some in depth discussions about The tower of Babel, death to self, His character, the showdown with the Prophets of Baal, heaven and hell, that nagging sin you had no idea lurked in the corners of your heart, your character and that’s only the beginning of the deep digging His Holy Spirit will do in your life, if you let Him. Coming to serve in another nation is not just about good memories that last a lifetime; it’s about a changed life that can last for eternity.