Packing for a Mission Trip

The day before my wedding, two friends from California called me to congratulate me on my impending marriage.  These two, husband and wife, were classmates of mine in seminary. The wife asked me, “What’s it feel like getting married?”  I said, “It feels like I’m going a mission trip.”

            As I was in the middle of packing for our honeymoon, filling my big bag with all the stuff I would need for my week with Leslie reminded me of getting ready to travel somewhere for a week of service.  Did I bring enough underwear and socks?  Where’s my toothbrush and comb?  Is there something I forgot that I’m going to need?

            Now, twenty years later, I think the mission trip / marriage analogy holds:  both require packing with purpose and with an eye on doing more for someone else than for yourself.

            I leave for our first Mexico City Mission Trip on Saturday.  I’m in the midst of packing.  I visited our host organization, ConeXion Mosaico, last November with Ken Williams.  I know where I and the three college students who are going with me are going to stay.  It’s very comfortable and feels very safe.  I saw the neighborhood and met some of the people we will see next week.  Our Team, which will include members from my home church (Media Presbyterian Church), has been asked to lead a morning Vacation Bible School for about one hundred children.  In the afternoons we will form a painting detail.  I know what to expect, but then again, I don’t know what will happen.

            So here’s some of the stuff that I’m packing:

            My old Spanish textbook:  A close friend, who travels to Central America twice a year on mission trips, knew not a single word of Spanish on his first trip in 2002.  In the years since, he has sought to learn Spanish.  From his nine years of study, my friend is nearly fluent now.  I know enough Spanish to tell people who I am, who’s in my family, and what I would like to order from the menu.  I would like to learn more Spanish.  Few things frustrate me more than visiting a country and not being able to speak with people.  A staff member from ConeXion Mosaico assured me that the children we will serve won’t mind that we don’t speak much Spanish; we’ll mind, though.

            Prayer stuff:  In preparation for this trip, I have created a daily devotional and an evening guide, and I am bringing bags of wooden beads for all of our team members to create their own prayer chains.  As I have been communicating with someone from the Media church, she expressed her gratitude for what I’m doing.  “It’s like rolling off a log for me,” I told her.  That’s not to say that what I’ve done isn’t important, because I know that it is.  Through the decades, as I have led and participated in dozens of mission trips, I know for a fact that it is.  When people go to serve others, their hearts open up in a powerful and an unusual way and God speaks to them uniquely.  You don’t have to go on a mission trip for this to happen; it’s just that it seems to happen more easily when you go.  Your prayer support plays an important part in this trip, too. Please pray for us!  I may be a part of the “away” team as I go to Mexico City; you who stay are members of the “home” team, who participate significantly by praying for us.

            I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, July 26, the day after we return home.