So you’ve heard about the backstory to this missions trip and I got real with you… I almost didn’t go.
Now let’s talk about the other side of it….
If you are on the fence about going on a mission trip like I was… keep reading!
I’m sharing all about how you might want to reconsider going on one and what you might take away from your experience if you do <3
Okay… let’s do this!
So when I was in a rut deciding whether or not to go with my church to Puerto Rico on the mission trip, I listened intently to messages around me.
One was from a bible study at Reformed Theological Seminary. Dr. Kruger challenged us to consider our idols (one of mine is comfort). Then, he asked us how our idols “challenge your loyalty to Christ.” UGH! It was like he was speaking directly to my situation. My desire for comfort definitely made me think twice about my loyalties. Was I more concerned about feeling comfortable or about being obedient to God’s call?
Another nudge that God laid on my heart to simply consider the positive. As the Bible says, we are to set our hearts on what is pure, lovely, and true (Philippians 4:8). So, I took time to journal what the positives could be in going on this trip. Here are mine:
The positives on this mission trip:
It’d be an opportunity to display acts of service (which is my love language!)
I’d going with my husband & church
It’d be in the US (plus, God revealed to me late in 2018 that America is one of the potential locations I may be going to)
God reminded me that the joy of the Lord is my strength, so I can accomplish this work through Him (Nehemiah 8:10)
I recognized that God might want to change my perception & perspective
My purpose may be less about the physical labor and more about ministering to others joining me on the trip
God calls the unequipped… He will prepare me well, no matter how out of my comfort zone I may feel
God is GOOD, is He not?! Such a perfect example of ‘flipping the script’ here.
So after quite of bit of prayer, reflection, and sweet Christ-filled moments, I felt pretty convicted that I was supposed to go on the trip. And I am so glad I did. I am crazy thankful for the opportunity to serve alongside my husband & church.
So let’s get to it, shall we? Here are my gems from the trip- what I learned and what my action steps now are. (Plus, in full transparency, I am sharing what was hard to help take away fear of the unknown.) I pray that you might be encouraged and hopeful that going on a mission trip may actually be for you, too. : )
What I Learned on My Mission Trip to Puerto Rico
Surrender & let Him take over.
This trip pretty much embodied the complete opposite of my giftings. I felt so out of place and out of my comfort zone and really had to rely on Him for strength. And you know what? It was so good for me and my relationship with God.
Take life day by day.
This is so related to the point above- and, it is definitely not the norm for me! I love living in the future and get energized by dreaming… but, it can stress me out and steal joy from the present! Living day by day was definitely life giving. I felt so much more rested and less stressed this way, too.
Be grateful for my giftings.
Yes- I did already ‘know’ this but now have an even deeper and more profound gratitude for my the strengths God has given me. It is so wonderful to have those ‘sweet spots’ and I was reminded of how incredibly grateful I am to be able to have a choice about what to do for work.
Sometimes we need to go to the wilderness to be with Jesus.
Our worship leader (Eric) came with us on the mission trip (cool right?). And, he was actually the leader of the group I was in. Anyhow, he mentioned how Jesus went to the wilderness to be with Christ. And isn’t that what we need to challenge ourselves to do sometimes, too. To go out to our own personal wilderness and encounter Jesus there.
We are all brothers and sisters.
Genuinely feeling like I was surrounded by brothers & sisters in Christ made all the difference. The people of Puerto Rico are so warm. (Puerto Rico felt SO different even though it’s considered part of the US.) I was reminded that the world is so much bigger than my own little bubble, which was incredibly freeing. I'd experienced such immense gratitude for this reminder… it’s so so important to challenge your perspective and be reminded of how big the world really is & how healthy it can be to consider other ways of life.
My body can handle way more than I think it can.
I felt oddly rested and energized most of the week. I channeled my inner child (did anyone else have 'Field Day' in elementary school? It was like a full day of outdoor relays & activities which for me was in the HOT Florida sun... and I loved it AND survived, haha) and was reminded that are bodies are capable of more than we might imagine. (And related, it made me think that pushing myself in this way will probably help make me feel more equipped & empowered when I’m pregnant or a mama one day… :)
Your mind is a powerful tool.
On the last day in PR… I really wasn’t feeling well (probably TMI to share more detail on here but let's just say it wasn’t great... ) and I think a lot of it had to do with the buildup of knowing we were going home soon, and worrying about still being sick and not being able to get on the plane… which of course made it worse. In stressful situations I can lose perspective (or even worse, jump to worse case scenario.. I’m totally human, too!)… I can forget a situation is temporary and can feel like my in the moment experience is a forever one when I’m walking through something hard. So...I had to remind myself this was absolutely not the case! The trip was super temporary and super fast. I was going to be home before I knew it. Plus, I wanted to recognize the positive… the fact that I was on an island, with my husband & church family, helping others who needed an extra set of hands… I mean- so cool!! It's so much more fun and energizing to choose to live in the good.
What Are My Action Steps Coming Out of the Trip?
As any good coach would do… of course we've got to also focus on action steps! Here’s what I’m committing to doing as a result of the trip:
Be more generous & giving.
I have MORE than enough and feel convicted to give more of my time and resources to my brothers & sisters in need. I'm also reminded of something our missions leader Brian shared on the trip, “Mission work puts a fast forward button on what Christ is asking us to do.” YUP.
Pour into people over productivity.
It sounds so ‘duh!,’ but I will say that this trip and the time away brought this into perspective for me. I’m either a 1 or 3 on the enneagram and value getting-stuff-done… but I really need to watch out for prioritizing that over relationships and pouring into people… because that’s really the whole point, isn’t it?
Consider whether I’m making my earth too much a heaven.
I didn’t come up with this phrase (and honestly am not sure who did… please let me know if you do so I can give them credit!), but isn’t it true? The purpose of our lives here on Earth is not to be cushy & comfortable but to love one another and share Jesus. And a lot of times, doing that places you in some pretty uncomfortable situations… but it is SO worth it every time!! Somer Phoebus of She Works His Way mentioned once on a podcast that as an introvert, she’s got to be careful about how much time she spends alone, because it can turn into a sin (although I must say she shared this idea much more eloquently..) -- and as an (extroverted) introvert, I can totally relate. I need time alone to recharge… but I need to watch it as it can be easy to isolate myself. I'm grateful for Somer's wise & vulnerable words and the reminder to LEAN IN.
“Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” - St. Francis of Assisi
As our mission trip leader Brian shared, this was especially relevant in a country where we don’t speak the language. After this trip, I am challenged to share Christ with others in more tangible ways more often. To start, this looks like pouring more deeply into the artisans at the ministry I partner with (Fashion & Compassion) and to love my neighbors better (yes- the actual people living right next door to me!).
What Was Hard?
Okay, so I want to be real with y’all, too. There were some hard moments! Even after receiving clarity from God that going on this trip was going to be a good thing… there were still some occasions where I felt pushed… and this is what that looked like. And as a side note- truly I thought there would be SO many more challenging moments. So grateful to God for a changed perspective and for His provision & protection on this trip! And thanks to the many brothers & sisters in Christ who prayed for our group while we were away- your prayers were definitely felt.
What was hard + how I changed my thought patterns:
- I struggled with frustrations of around efficiency… I felt like I could’ve added more value on another project our team had been assigned… but I totally don’t know if that would’ve been the case. It was a good lesson for me to keep an open mind and keep the focus on people over productivity
- The house we were in did have live bats (bat poop too), rats' nests cockroaches in the walls… not pleasant. So I kept a mask on and tried to be cognizant of my surroundings… and was that much more grateful for a clean home waiting for me back in NC!
- It was definitely pretty hot at times and I didn’t feel awesome working in the heat. (I HATE being hot, y’all!) … which made me that much more thankful for the afternoon thunderstorms
- I wish I had more of an impact and grappled with not being able to provide as much value in the rebuild process as I might have wanted to. But… I paced myself and didn’t get sick from pushing too hard (which has totally happened in the past!) I took breaks when I needed and savored the time talking with the wonderful, wonderful home owners, the construction crew, and my group… which was 100% worth it.
If I can do it… you can do it, sweet friend.
So proud of myself for making it through and crazy grateful to God for giving me the strength to make it happen. I pray that you will give yourself that same gift and say YES to whatever scary opportunity He is placing in front of you right now.
And if you have opportunity to go to Puerto Rico on a missions trip, or are considering exploring the idea- go! Thousands still need help. People there didn’t have power for 6 months and the rebuild is still in effect. The woman my husband's team supported didn’t have a roof for a year. It was bad. You will be a blessing to others and if you open your heart, you will experience God in a profound, new way- I promise <3
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