I have mixed feelings about missions trips. On the one hand they are expensive, seem to do little to the culture we go into, and a little touristy. The flip side is what happens to the people who go on these trips.
Last week we had our trip to New York City. The question was asked the first night we were there “what do you want God to do on this trip?” My first thought was to get through this week. In a lot of ways we had already accomplished the goal we had gotten these kids to come here. This group of kid’s only months earlier had been scared to death to go Christmas caroling in our church neighborhood. So when the question was asked what do you want God to do? I was trying to be realistic; we knew that we were going to be serving at a soup kitchen, ministering to homeless, prayer walks, and prayer booths. I was trying to think what is possible; if they just participate I will feel this is an accomplishment.
Complaining is a defense mechanism, when we are fearful of the unknown we tend to criticize and make excuses to not participate or avoid the new event. Complaining is a big issue on missions trips for the teens and the leaders alike. As the leader I try and prepare myself as best I can for this attack. If I just allow the complaining to be the focal point we will all leave the trip exactly as we came and not allow ourselves to be changed.
So when we first arrived in New York the complaining stared, the rooms were cramped and hot. We had driven a long way (we did see a dead bear on the side of the road in Penn) and we were starting to get on each other’s nerves. The biggest issue on the trip was the no cell phone during ministry time rule. That is the one I had been preparing them for. I didn’t know if they could handle that one or not. The first night we had a little gripe session and it was challenged to them that if they were going to get something out of this trip that we don’t grumble and complain. To everyone in the groups credit the grumbling and complaining was almost non-existent through the trip.
The group exceeded even my best-case scenarios. The first day we had some change of plans because of too many people at the mission, the group leader asked if we would be willing to pray and pass out fliers with people on the streets. This was our first real test if we could not grumble and complain if we could make it by this then we would be fine. The group passed with flying colors. One of the teen boys came up to me half way through the day beaming and shared how he had made a girl cry. I wanted to know why this was a good thing, he then shared how he had asked her about her life and she was so moved when he asked her to pray that she started crying. I couldn’t believe how quick these kids jumped into to serve and love on people. It was this same story every day of the trip. Teens and adults coming up and sharing how they had prayed and talked to people. I was amazed at what God did in each and everyone of their lives.
We were at a prayer booth one of the days and I was with a teen who has never prayed out loud in the time I have been here and isn’t the most outgoing person. We were standing by the prayer booth when this older woman who had problems with her eyesight approached us. She wanted prayer that God would heal her. I asked if I could pray with her and she looked at the teen I was with and said I want him to pray for me. He then said a simple prayer of healing on this woman’s eyes. I was crying because I could not believe how much God had worked in this teens life to even be willing to do this. Seeing and hearing each teen talk about what God did in them will be a moment that I will never forget, hearing passion where there use to be apathy, courage where there use to be fear, love were there use to be indifference, and faith where there use to be doubt. We may not have changed New York, but New York changed us.