by Mike Douris Posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2014
My first trip to Guatemala almost 14 years ago was an eye-opening experience into Latin America. I remember thinking how beautiful a country, yet such a complex history. The challenges the people of Guatemala faced were overwhelming. One of our first meetings was with missionaries to find out which orphanages might need our help. The government orphanage in Antigua was discussed, and we were told not to go there because the care was horrible and girls were being raped and abused. I remember thinking, “That is exactly where we need to go.”So we went, and I remember like it was yesterday walking into the building that had once served as a presidential residence. The girls saw me and immediately backed up against the wall – expressionless faces – eyes to the ground. I approached and introduced myself to a few of them; you could sense stress and fear. It broke my heart, and upon returning to the United States I asked my church, 121 Community Church, to take a mission team there.They went and the team had a wonderful trip connecting with the girls. I had heard it was a very good trip but I could not have predicted what I was about to experience.About a month after their trip I returned to the orphanage and as I approached the gate, I heard the girls begin to yell and run towards me before the gate was even opened - they were yelling the names of the team members who had just visited. Please tell this one hello and I love them, give so and so a letter I wrote to them. They pressed against the gate and as I walked in I was swamped with hugs and tears of joy!I have experienced this transformative change over and over again. The connection a mission trip participant makes with a child is life-changing for both. And as one thinks about it – it makes sense. A child abused, abandoned, unloved, separated from family connects with a person who shows unique, unconditional agape love and attention and the Lord does the miraculous – He provides healing and hope.There are many who are now criticizing mission trips as ineffective and a waste of money. The thinking goes they can even be harmful, and some describe them as Christian tourism – that it would be better for Christians to stay home and send the money to those who really know how to do the work.I cannot disagree more with all these characterizations. It is true some mission trips are not done intentionally and may not be effective. But let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Thousands are killed in ambulance accidents, but that does not mean we ban ambulances in transporting patients.I have seen the transformative nature of Christians who connect and build relationships over and over again. The majority of our support comes from people who have gone and been changed by the experience, and it has inspired them to make missions a major part of their life. Missions is about relationships and though financial resources are always needed – it is people, not a check, who change lives.Why mission trips? God calls us to go, make disciples, care for the orphan, love unconditionally. Mission trips are a vehicle to make all that a reality in a child’s life.The mission can be at home or in a remote village in a far away place but the dynamic is the same. God works through His church – His people – for His glory!