I didn’t grow up camping and roughing it in the woods, I don’t speak another language, and I prefer toilets that flush. Can I get an amen?
I thought the trips would be a stretch for me, and they were. However, I can see how close God drew me to him. I was challenged and grown in my faith in ways I would and will never experience back home, all while being hit with an abundance of (generally pleasant) surprises.
I wouldn’t trade those trips for anything. Through my experiences on these adventures, I’ve gathered some tips for what I wish I had known before going on my first one and for those on the fence and those who haven’t even heard of a mission trip (let alone Crossroads GO trips). Sometimes, it just takes a little…
1. Push. Let Yourself Be Pushed
I mentioned I’ve gone on three trips: GO South Africa (2015), GO Nicaragua (2017) and GO Puerto Rico (2023). I’ll focus on my Nicaragua trip for the most part - where the decision was easy, and the trip wasn’t. The first morning, I found out that my son had fallen out of his top bunk. The scar was deep, and our doctor said it would take five stitches to close. It was not horrible news until we realized we only had tape.
The rest of that day consisted of climbing a 2388-foot active volcano. Imagine walking an hour and a half up a vast sand dune without purchase for your next step; it would be exhausting in itself without the 95-degree heat with no shade. I thought I was in shape.
God used this day to slow me down so I could see what I was missing, mostly him. I quickly realized I couldn’t protect myself or my loved ones. I needed to pray for and rely on His protection. My faith grew deeper by spending time with God and learning to trust him.
The climb was challenging, dirty, and beautiful. There was no option to give up. It wasn’t a race to the top; it was about enjoying the view and talking to the people around you as you climbed. I realized it was a lesson in humility for more life as a whole, that I needed to rely on God to press on and live a life of joy and purpose (Philippians 3:14). I learned not to rely on my own will or ambition (which I was severely lacking anyway on that climb).
2. Let Time Slow Down, and Conversations go Deeper
Throughout the week, God’s presence was felt by his peace. Many of the comforts of home are stripped away when you are on a mission trip, but on the other hand, so is the day-to-day hustle and busyness. I took advantage of enjoying devotional time with God while journaling at sunrise, overlooking three volcanoes on the horizon. A beautiful way to start the day, I’m now a seeker of beautiful sun-rises state-side.
By leaving behind the screens and devices, my focus increased. I was more present and interested in talking with fellow tripmates and the locals. Mission trips encourage relationships with others as much as finishing the project. In America, we are efficient. We used our drive time to make business calls and listen to podcasts, but during my week away, we were driven around in buses for four hours a day to our work site, allowing for deep and more vulnerable conversations.
And in a space so disconnected from a hyper-technological society, it was hard to ignore the Biblical references surrounding us. When teams of oxen and daily cattle merged around our buses, I was nudged with the question, ‘Am I equally yoked with my spouse right now’? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). When climbing the volcano, I thought, ‘Am I building our home on a firm foundation?’ (Matthew 7:24-27). When we were invited into those homes of the community members for a treat, we said yes to the hospitality of breaking bread together on our last day (Acts 2:42).
3. Expect the Unexpected
I told you I didn’t grow up “roughing it,” but I admit there was something really good about getting out of my comfort zone. It allowed me then and now to look at the world through a different lens. The week allowed me to strip down some barriers I’ve built around my life, challenge some perspectives, and be open to a new level of vulnerability. This new posture feels amazing today and provides the freedom God intends for me.
I wasn’t expecting that, nor the love I would feel for our “adopted son.”
When our church prompted the congregation to sponsor children from Nicaragua in 2016, we took them up on it. We selected a boy close to our son’s age, knowing our monthly contribution would feed, clothe, and educate him. We didn’t anticipate meeting him two years later on the mission trip. After months of exchanging letters, seeing him and his mom face to face, spending the day with them (and mostly hugging him) was one of the most powerful moments of my life. I didn’t expect to love Kelvin as much as I do.
In the villages and our day with Kelvin, we understood that even without language, we could communicate love through smiles, kickball, blowing bubbles, and water guns. There truly is an international language of play.
As I recall, each of my three mission trips ended with friends getting baptized. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise because once we experience growth in faith, Christian friendship, and letting go of societal barriers, we desire for it to continue.
Accepting the Invitation
If you are considering going, go! GO trips are an experience you won’t forget or regret. Remember that scar on the first day of our trip? Not surprisingly, God protected in the form of no complaints, no infection, and a minimal scar, yet noticeable enough for significant bragging rights today.
Yes, the Nicaragua trip was challenging—but so rewarding. When discussing what might be our last high school family spring break, we sat down with our two kids and asked where they’d like to spend it: on the beach, in the mountains, or touring a city…they both requested a second family mission trip (Europe was on the table, by the way).
Surprises always came, and unknowns always existed, but in all three cases, I never backed out. I wanted to see how God would show up. In all my experiences, I saw Him in a new way that radically changed my back home life, and I can’t wait to see where I will go next.
Disclaimer: This article is 100% human-generated.