The Perfect Mission Trip

What makes a perfect mission trip? The perfect combination of service, relationship building, rest, and team camaraderie. Kudos to David and Lisa McCarty from World Servants and glory to God for making last week’s mission trip to the Dominican Republic a perfect one. 

After a good dinner Saturday evening, we went right into our first 24 hours of building relationships by walking up and down the mountainous hillside visiting the people of  San Cristobal.  me visiting

Then on Sunday evening, we enjoyed sharing worship and stories with them during their church service.  DR Church

When Monday came, we split into four teams to begin our projects and show love to the people of San Cristobal by getting our hands dirty…

We had the privilege and joy of restoring a couple tin roofs and laying concrete floors in the homes of those who could not afford to do it for themselves. One of whose owners was in the hospital because the mother had just given birth so it was a joy to know that we were creating a new, clean environment for mom and baby when they returned home. One of the things that was special about this trip is that we were not laying floors all by ourselves with the Dominicans looking on. Instead of us coming in and showing them the American way, the Dominicans worked hard alongside us showing us several techniques for mixing mounds of sand and cement and teaching us how to level and spread a concrete floor using string and two-by-fours.  cement lines

blog laying cement

As I said in my last blog, we receive just as many blessings from these mission projects as we give.  But there was something new about this trip that I hadn’t expected…  Our team ministered and enriched one another as a by-product of reaching out to and serving the Dominicans.

 

 

 

 

This was the most impactful team I have ever been apart of.  None of us could have laid seven concrete floors, built a community garden, or conducted kids programs for hundreds of children in just one week without the help of every other member of the team. For instance, mixing the mounds of sand and cement required several people at a time, it took a bucket brigade to move the concrete to the floors, and several people at a time to spread and smooth the concrete in the houses. It was very rewarding to achieve so much while working side by side with new friends.  mixing cement with me in background

Sure, it was hard work. However, the hot working days were only seven hours long and when you were exhausted at the end of the day, there was the option to go to bed as early as 8:30 and get up at 6:30 in the morning.  And yes, I did that a couple times.

Then there was the garden that we helped plant for the school so they will have food for school lunches when the kids start attending full days next year. The project started on Monday on the side of a hill where one of the teams had to break through hard ground and pull brush. Then they had to cut down trees and make a fence for the entire area.breaking ground for the garden

By the time my team got there, they needed us to clear a path to lay PVC pipe so they could direct spring water down the mountain, we had to rake up the rocks, and then the donkeys had to carry more bags of black dirt up the steep mountain side so we could finish adding the top soil.me raking garden

It was amazing that within five days, we were planting seeds.planting seedsIt will be a joy to see pictures of fresh vegetables during harvest time!

My favorite part of any mission project (whether it is here or overseas) is spending time with the children.  Each of our teams went to a different school to tell a Bible story with drama, sing songs (that we learned in Spanish), play games, face paint, make balloon animals, and do a butterfly craft.  DR school teaching

Then when there was a break in construction at the homes, I would pull out the “Spot It” game and work with the kids to find the matching objects. me playing with the kids

This is the closest I have come to understanding how Jesus felt when he told the disciples to “let the children come unto me.”  Their love is unconditional and they are so eager to enjoy all you have to give them.  me with the kids

This is my new friend Jakela.  Isn’t she adorable?  me with Jakela

Not only did the team camaraderie and working side by side with the Dominicans make this a very rewarding trip, but the times of encouragement and sharing in the mornings and evenings were inspirational with the devotions centered around the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand (Mark 6).

We were of all ages and total strangers. The majority of the team came on this trip alone but we all left as lifetime friends. We had to trust one another and be there for one another. Never before has it brought tears to my eyes as I think about my mission friends. I love you guys:  Pat, Patti, Heather, Heidi, Denise, Barb, Amy, Joy, Loren, Nan, Howard, Brian, Andy, Julie, Jason, Amanda, Danny, Haley, Erica, Jadee, Jolee, Steven, Jennifer, Dave, Lisa, Katie Johnson and Katie Jorgenson!group at the garden

Who Gains the Most from a Mission Trip?

Why would anyone want to use their vacation time to go overseas to live among the poor and risk their health and safety? That is a question I actually get more often from those that I go serve rather than friends and family at home. The question always surprises me. I’m usually thinking “why not?” I feel as though my reward is sometimes greater than those I am serving but those I am serving are so humble that they do not readily understand what they have to offer.

MVC-001S

Serving on a mission, whether locally or overseas, is the best way to learn and understand compassion and put your unconditional love and selfish desires to the test.

I am about to go on my eighth overseas mission trip and I’m looking forward to getting away from the endless busyness and responsibilities of American life and focusing on serving as Jesus’ hands and feet. We will be going to the Dominican Republic to teach children, do construction, lay cement floors, help with gardens, and the best part of all, visit homes and look into the grateful eyes of those who do not have the means to do all of this for themselves.

I also look forward to once again learning how to increase my faith from those who rely on God at a deeper level than I’ve ever had to. It is indescribable to be a part of such spirit-filled worship in the midst of environments that make you think there is nothing to celebrate. On the contrary, their faith is in abundance and they have so much to teach me! For instance:

In Cebu Philippines, I learned that kids are the same no matter where they are and orphanages, such as the Children’s Shelter of Cebu, can be beautiful when run by people who truly love and want to rescue children of all abilities. I also learned a deep respect for squatters who live in cardboard houses and yet dare to dream and work hard to get an education so they can change their futures.

In Eastern Germany, I learned the importance of building relationships to strengthen and encourage fellow Christians, especially those who are struggling to serve in an atheistic society.

In Haiti, I witnessed the spiritual joy and strength of the elderly even when all they have is their one room shacks. I also learned about the ministry of touch. Rubbing lotion on sick and dying patients was one of the most realistic manifestations of Christ’s love that I have ever experienced because I wasn’t there to just solve a need, I was there to comfort and touch the untouchables.

In Mexico, the Church taught me how to apply and prioritize spiritual disciplines, which included audible prayer walks before sunrise.

In Liberia Africa, I witnessed a Christian culture that takes the Bible literally and one of the ways they apply it is by demonstrating respectful speech and hospitality. My favorite experience was when waking up in a mud house to the sound of a sweet voice singing right outside my window. By the way, did you know roosters crow at night!?

That is why I go on these trips. God has created and called me to experience so much more than my small world has to offer.

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