“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!”
I should never have gone on the mission trip my sophomore year of college. I did not deserve to go. I was a terrible witness to the Christian life. There were many who deserved to go, who would have done better – why was I selected as part of the summer mission team? I didn’t deserve it, but I sure needed it.
I had become a master of hypocrisy; living the duplicitous lifestyle of a rebellious, foul-mouthed, directionless twerp – who, in the right surroundings, could also sing and extol the praises of the Lord with the best of the saints. I was everything those outside the church say is wrong inside the church. I had no sense of discipline, I “kicked at the goads,” and what’s worse, I really didn’t care.
I didn’t care about what my behavior was saying about my Lord, my family, even myself. You might think that I only cared about myself, but while I might have been self-centered I certainly didn’t take care of my life. I had no self-respect, and no respect for those around me.
I think I applied for the Summer Mission Program because I wanted the experience of going somewhere that people didn’t know me, to escape my problems for a summer, pad my resume with some “good works;” who knows what really motivated me. Maybe it was my soul longing to be in a place where God would transform me.
I spent that summer in inner city San Jose, CA, working with City-Team Ministries. City-Team had a great program that 1) brought inner city kids to a camp in the mountains for a week, 2) led Bible school programs for children at various locations throughout the city. Working in the inner city that summer were a group of college kids from California, Canada, Iowa, and then me. We had a great time sharing Bible stories with the kids, kids who just wanted to be loved and were eager to love us in return.
Thing is, I still wasn’t happy. Being in a place like that for the summer, I had no place to hide. The kids saw right though me. The other volunteers for the summer saw through me too. I still have the group picture we took that summer – I’m the one not smiling.
People always say that when you go on a mission trip, you think you are going to help other people, only to find out you are the one who receives the greater blessing. That happened to me that summer. Looking back I tell people that during that time there God was destroying the foundation that I had set my life upon – taking away the masks, the lies, the façade that I could never hope to maintain. God was searching out the deepest parts of my life, my hidden heart, and was exposing my pride, my stubborn will, my disobedience – and purging those things with His refining fire. God used that summer to begin a new work in me – it was painful, His hand was upon me, there was a great deal of pruning involved. It was a hard summer, the work was emotionally exhausting, and the battle raging in my heart was spiritually exhausting. But by the time we were done, I had learned to stop fighting, and to resign to the gracious work of God in my life.
Now I’m not suggesting that this is the right way to go into a mission trip, not by a long shot. But I do maintain that getting involved in missions will transform you. You will see the world differently, you will see yourself differently, you will learn to trust the Lord differently.
This the one of the benefits from following God into the mission field. There are many more, but this is one that I know personally. My prayer is that this mission to Haiti will bring real transformation to those who are going, and to those who are giving their support.