I never wanted to go on a mission trip. I still wonder if I’m crazy to be excited about spending a week at an orphanage for handicapped and disabled children in the heart of a third world country – in a building with no screens, not nearly enough fans, no TV or internet, and water that we can’t drink. I know my mom still thinks I’m nuts…
Well Mom, you can thank Justin. Life Teen was running a mission trip for youth ministers, and Justin, who lives in New Mexico talked me into going – mainly so we’d get to hang out for the week. So I got the vaccines, bought the plane tickets, did it all – and then Justin told me he couldn’t make it. I was less than happy.
On the plane down, I got out a pen & paper to figure out how many hours remained until my plane ride home. But then I landed. And that week broke my heart and changed my life – not in an “I met cool people” or “I made great memories” sort of way – but a real old-fashioned life examination sort of way. I had an incredible experience working and praying with my fellow missionaries, and living and spending time with the handicapped & disabled children of Mustard Seed in Nicaragua.
As soon as I got home, I set to work putting into motion a mission trip for teens and college students a year later. 19 brave young men and women and their chaperones signed up for an event that wouldn’t just challenge those going – it would transform the entire parish in many ways. Each of those who went invited 35 people to be their prayer partners – and if possible, to financially donate towards their mission. We had informational nights and a hunger banquet. Parish organizations were behind us and supported us financially.
But the support was about much, much more than money. When we boarded our planes in April 2010, we left behind a “home mission team” of parents, friends and other parishioners who gathered daily to pray for us, say Mass in union with us, and share the tidbits of updates we got back to them. And while we were in Nicaragua, we read over the lists of all of the donors and prayer partners, had Masses and said rosaries for them and shared stories about the people who were supporting us in so many ways.
It didn’t end when we got home. We had a recap night for the event, and about 150 people came to hear stories, see pictures and videos and still tell us how they were a part of this mission trip. We’re headed off to Nicaragua for Round 2 this summer, and we have 29 missionaries going – and over 10 people were turned away! The parish is asking for mission trips for all different age groups, and plans are underway already for rosaries, Masses and communal Adoration while we are gone.
I never imagined the impact a single mission trip could have on my life. I put restrictions of God. God blew those away. He didn’t just change my heart – He didn’t just change the hearts of those who went – He changed the hearts of countless in the parish. All that, just for saying yes.