The quote from Isobel Kuhn, above, is such an impactful statement when you discuss mission trips and the relevance they play in our lifes. Why is it that man/woman have such a difficult time leaving the comforts of their surroundings.....to challenge themselves......and to see what God has in mind for them once their heart changes? Why do we run the other way? Or make excuses that appear logical, at least on the outside.
It's been about a month now since 24 of us from Project 52 traveled to the Dominican Republic to assist Lighthouse Schools in Los Alcarrizos, a suburb in Santo Domingo. Our 8-day stay was packed full of work, eating, work, work, prayer and sleeping. No question it was an educational trip Shortly after setting back on U.S. soil I sent an email request to each of the mission trippers asking them a couple of questions and some word associations. I believe their responses offer the full gamut of emotions, sacrifices and thoughts. One, in particular, jumped out at me. It's a thought many people could or can relate to. And this from someone who feels he doesn't put things in perspective.
"So many things to sort out", said Donn Anderson, a farmer from Wellsburg, Iowa. "Sometimes words cannot describe what one is feeling. There is definitely something going on in my life, but I don't have a grasp on it yet to comment. I wasn't going on the trip for a second time after unfortunate illness that gripped me after our return last year", he added. "Something influenced me to go, changed my mind or heart to buck up and deal with it. I am certain to WHOM that was. I'm happy that I went for a second trip, my outlook at this has significantly changed and God willing, I will be going next year".
|Before each meal a prayer of thanks and compassion|
Sometimes.....the changes come in unexpected areas as Corey Viet from West Des Moines, Iowa alluded to. "Before I started going on these mission trips, I didn't really know how good God was. I have always been a believer, but not to the point I should have been. I can tell now that God has a plan for everyone, and even though we may not know what that plan is, we can be assured that he will lead us through life if we just trust in him". Lastly, this mission trip makes me believe that there still is good in this world. A lot of times, the news or social media talks about all the bad in the world. It is always refreshing to go down to the Dominican Republic and see that there are happy people in the world who are genuine. Being cut off from pretty much everything while we are down there is always refreshing and as I said, really makes you think that there can be good in this world".
"Each year I think I transform a little more", related Matt Banzhaf, of West Des Moines. "I think that comes from the different experiences I get to encounter on each trip and also from the different perspectives I take away from listening to my peers on the trip (some new voices and some familiar). I seem to become more motivated because of those things". Banzhaf went on to relate of the first trip he took in 2011 to the Dominican Isle. "It changed my life"....to see how much it transformed some of my friends and to hear them talk about the same things I felt just the year before....it was one of the more, if not the most, gratifying feeling I've had in my life".
Many times a mission trip is not so much about building anything concrete.....or leading someone to the Lord.....but it's about new found friends. But as one might expect, there can be a language barrier. There are, however, ways to combat that says Lesli Clark of Urbandale. "I do feel motivated to learn Spanish so that I can communicate with the Dominicans better. Mission trip experiences are so much about relationships and not being able to communicate thru words is frustrating to me". Sounds like she has a solution.
|A Dominican smile communicates acceptance and love|
In addition to the questions I asked, I also offered up a chance for word association. Now remember, these answers were done in different locations and at different times....but look at the results:
Karen Meyer of Wellsburg, "A Beacon for all".
Nancy Buskohl of Grundy CenterWellsburg, "A Blessing"
Jen Carstensen of Clive, "A Beacon of Christ".
Bill Clark of Urbandale, "A Beacon to the Community".
Sheila Steinmeyer of Grundy Center, "Content and Loving".
Sydney Clark, age 12, of Urbandale, "Different Lifestyle".
Corey Viet, of West Des Moines, "Grateful".
Bill Clark of Urbandale, "Warm, Content".
And how about lasting images? There no doubt will be many for all of those on the trip....but a couple of outstanding remarks had to do with the young Dominicans they encountered. Kelsey Clark will always remember going to the Compass Point School. "It was a really neat experience to be able to give the kids school supplies", she offered. And then there was the experience at Las Charcas involving the national sport of the country. "It was pretty awesome seeing those kids faces light up when they got those new baseball gloves", said Matt Banzhaf. "Those are the experiences and feelings we get to experience, but when trying to relay that to people when we get back.....the words just DON"T and CAN"T do justice".
|A pretty happy, content bunch of young athletes with new equipment|
It shouldn't go without saying, there was a multitude of sacrifices that took place to enable all 24 individuals to go. Wives were left alone, husbands were left alone......and some were left with young children. Some faced opposition from family members and some from friends. Some struggled to leave work and their daily routines. Yes, it took much sacrifice. But....it was not a Mission Impossible.
If anything...I'd like to offer my fellow mission members this thought. Thank you for your courage. You see, sometimes courage skips a generation. Let me say that one more time. Sometimes COURAGE skips a generation. What you've done is a witness to many. Perhaps more than you'll ever know. Thank you for your willingness to step out of your comfort zone and your desire to do what is right.
"It is possible for the most obscure person in a church, with a heart right toward God, to exercise as much power for the evangelization of the world, as it is for those who stand in the most prominent positions". -John R. Mott