4 Ways Missions Has Impacted Me

If you read my last blog, you know Tony and I just started hosting missions teams. We’re working with a 16-person team from Wisconsin in Lavender Hill this week, and we have two smaller-group trips planned for November and December.

It’s a huge blessingbeing able to help facilitate life change through service. Through missional living, the lives of the served and of the servers alike are changed. It’s amazing how the concept of “giving back” works. Bless and be blessed, amen?

Until January 2013, I’d never been on a foreign missions trip. I’d participated in a few local outreaches here and there, but venturing to a third world country was an entirely new ballgame. Still, I decided to take the plunge and committed to 11 months of missional living.

After those 11 months, life as I knew it would never be the same. I took what I learned on the "missions field" and have tried my best to apply it to normal life. Here are four ways working with people in South America, Eastern Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia impacted how I live today:

1. It granted me courage.
Once I decided to go on the World Race (11 months in 11 countries), and once I left the states, I became a more courageous person in general. I stepped out of my comfort zone, and I was fine. I obeyed the Lord and experienced the fruits of obedience. All of the “crazy” decisions to come would be (and still are) much easier to make, because I know and trust that obedience is the way to go (despite the occasional meltdown).

My first month on the missions field in Quito, Ecuador working with street children.

2. It gave me perspective.
This is something I talk about often. Paul tells us in the Book of Romans not to conform to the ways of this world. He says we should allow our minds (our ways of thinking) to be transformed and renewed by Christ. While I believe cultural understanding is highly important, as believers, we must operate with a “Kingdom mindset.” And I think the first step in doing so is accepting this fact: My way isn’t necessarily the right way. No human way is. Living in 11 different countries helped me realize exactly that.

What happens in the kingdom of this world is that revolutions basically keep the same old thing on top of the list. They’re not real revolutions; money and power and politics always stay at the top. Most revolutions have been merely a fine-tuning of the same old order. Every revolution brings a new set of people into power, and then the next one puts a different set of people in power. But Jesus isn’t just putting a new set of people in power; he is bringing a totally different administration of reality—the kingdom of God. Jesus is not a revolutionary you can stop with swords, because he’s not about the sword at all. (...) To all of us, Jesus is saying, “My kingdom is not of this world. It’s completely different. This is how I’m going to change things: I’m going to put others ahead of myself. I’m going to love my enemies. I’m going to serve and sacrifice for others. I’m not going to repay evil with evil; I’m going to overcome evil with good. I will give up my power, my life. Weakness, poverty, suffering, and rejection will now be at the top of the list. My revolution comes without the sword; it is the first true revolution.”
— Timothy Keller

One of my favorite photos from Trujillo, Peru: a squad mate with our ministry contact and four Peruvian boys.

3. It brought me joy.
When I first decided to go on the Race, I remember someone saying to me, “I can see why you’d want to do something like that. They say our greatest joys will come when we’re serving others.” I partially agree with that statement. Yes, earlier I said, “Bless and be blessed,” so let me explain.

If I serve others because I want to be happy, then I’m not really serving others. I’m serving myself and my desire to be happy. I’m being selfish, and any joy that results from my efforts won’t last. I inadvertently inserted myself into the vicious and unending cycle of chasing happiness. 

However, if I serve others because I follow Christ, I will certainly be blessed. Maybe monetarily, maybe not. We must stop equating “blessed” to “successful” or “financially secure.” We may be blessed with maturity or hope, new perspective or faith, a softer heart or character, along with many other things.

When it comes to the Kingdom of God, the heart intention (not the behavior) is what matters most. If your heart is to “serve and sacrifice for others,” your work will bring you joy.

Kylie and me in Penang, Malaysia at our final debrief. We had just finished our 11 months on the World Race.

4. It’s unifying my marriage.
Tony and I chatted with our dear friends (the Heltons) several weeks ago. As we talked about our ministry, it occurred to me: Tony and I were growing closer as we served together. I don’t know exactly why or how, but it makes sense. Through serving others, we serve our relationship. Either through conflict or joy, every day we spend in the townships brings my husband and I closer together.

Tony and me at our engagement party in my hometown, about a month before we got married!

Wow, the last two years have been a wild ride, and I wouldn’t change them for anything! I look forward to every day the Lord brings my way and truly wake up excited about life. But that hasn’t always been the case. I spent years searching for contentedness, purpose and affirmation in all the wrong places. Then one day, I encountered the true Jesus Christ, and things began changing.

If you feel called to go on a short-term missions trip, check out the upcoming trip dates here, and feel free to send us a message with any questions or concerns you may have. 

Love,
Julie