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When Mission Trips Change Lives

I heard the testimony of a big and gruff, man about his mission trip.“It was to Reynosa, Mexico. We didn’t do too much building or construction; we did do Vacation Bible School.  Something happened there one day that broke my heart.  Every day there was a lady who came to …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I heard the testimony of a big and gruff, man about his mission trip.

“It was to Reynosa, Mexico. We didn’t do too much building or construction; we did do Vacation Bible School.  Something happened there one day that broke my heart.  

Every day there was a lady who came to the VBS who didn’t have any legs.  She didn’t have a wheelchair.  One of her arms was bent from years of pressure, scooting herself along on the ground.  

Even when it rained and streets were muddy and filled with water, she’d scoot through the mud.  What was really hard to watch is that she had a small child that she wanted to make sure got to VBS.  

So she had a sack draped over her back and she would carry her toddler draped over her back.  She would come every day, it didn’t matter what the weather, scooting along through the mud and dirt so her daughter could hear about Jesus.”  

At that point as the man related the story, he broke down in tears and couldn’t go on.  Finally he pulled himself together enough to say, “I’ll never be the same again.”  

Short-term missions trips can do that. A moment can change the course of your life. And we would do well to analyze why. Why will the man never be the same again?

  • Maybe it was because he’d gotten into a rut of protecting his heart and what he saw got through his armor and caused him to feel again.
  • Maybe because he was inspired by the woman’s example. She is an overcomer.  If she can overcome her issues, perhaps his issues aren’t so big.
  • Maybe because he’s humbled. In the past perhaps he’s felt entitled or acted like a victim. Perhaps the woman’s courage was a gut check.

The point is that the man changed for the better while on his trip. We don’t do short-term missions for the missiological impact. We do them because Jesus modeled them and they serve as life-changing tools for those who are serious about discipleship.

Short-term missions have come in for a lot of well-deserved criticism. Done poorly, they foster dependency, waste money, and can even hurt people.

But done well, they can change lives and follow a biblical pattern.

Did you go on a mission trip this past summer? Did it change any lives? How do we know? What price do we put on that change?

Comments (8)

  • I think missions trips change lives. This summer, I traveled to Santo Domingo Xenacoj in Guatemala, and I’m certain that lives were changed. We changed the lives of families we ministered to. Our lives were changed. And we are changing the lives of those around us at home. I wrote some of my thoughts about these changes in a blog post I wrote last week titled, “3 Changes That Happen When You Go On A Short-Term Missions Trip.” Here’s the link: http://www.jonstolpe.com/2014/08/26/3-changes-that-happen-when-you-go-on-a-short-term-missions-trip/

  • Seth thanks for this and also suggesting years ago that our son Sam and I go to Matamoros, Mexico and experience service together as a father and son. Years later as he finishes up his double major at the University of Colorado and anticipates moving on to medical school he recounts that very short term trip. AIM does its work differently. No organization is perfect. But there is not a better incubator of new ideas to precipitate a new generation of radical disciples for Jesus that I know of. I say that because it is true. Not because you are a thirty year friend. But that counts too. Of course. 🙂

  • Amen Seth,

    My life will never be the same again because of the trip I took with Adventure In Missions in 1995.

    I could read 20 more of these posts! The life changing stories are epic!

  • And on the Reynosa side, my wife was an interpreter sent by her church in Tampico for you guys in the mid 90’s – and her life has never the same.

    My first thought reading this is healing, and my second thought is, well, who does that, and of course it’s Jesus. And my final thought is when healed , instructions followed to go and live changed.

    There needs to be months of debriefing (as you know) for short term mission trips, if not longer, so that people are constantly engaging the heart where it was healed. The enemy’s job is “stealing healing”, and Jesua warned about that. You guys do a phenomenal job of throwing the box away and realizing everyone’s situation is different, but on some levels the same. Keep it up!! I have the best wife in the world partly because of AIM! 🙂

  • Her name is Aurora Swain. Paul VanDerWerf came to a church in Tampico (ARP that is dissolved now) to do a VBS, and recruited her to go Reynosa and interpret at a VBS there. She was just out of HS so he even went to her house and asked her parents and bought her a bus ticket! What she saw at that VBS was like nothing she’d experienced, very very poor – and the presence of the Holy Spirit. She went home and left her family church, left religion, (huge risk) to go out on her own seeking God where she became a leader. Amazing story. I could go on and on.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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