A story from Steve from Summer 2016:
I know some in the youth ministry world are against short term mission projects. They say things like "the people don’t need your help," or "if you don’t have a long term relationship nothing really changes." "Going to some far off place is nice, but you have needs in your community that should be served first." I have a different view on these types of trips.
About a week ago I spent 8 days with students, parents and 300 other kids I had never met before to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the community of Prince George, Virginia. This was my 12th week-long mission trip as a leader. I did 4 as a high school student and one trip for 3 weeks in high school as well. I can say without a doubt I am a week-long mission junkie. I love it and honestly the couple of summers I didn’t get to do it my whole year felt off somehow. You may be thinking, "How can one week of service really do that?"
For the last 13 years I have gone on these trips through Group Mission Trips. They are a fantastic organization to work with mostly because they do two things really well: First, the work is all set up. They screen residents, plan the jobs we will be doing, and provide directions for all the projects. This is no small task. I have never in 13 years had an issue with work not needing to be done or trivial. We make a real difference in the lives of those people we come in contact with. Second, they help my students and I get out of our comfort zone by breaking us up into crews of kids we have never met before. It is a brilliant system because if doesn’t just get you to meet other students. By taking you out of your comfort zone it helps students and adults gain the confidence needed to get to know others in their own youth group. I can't say enough about the system and what they do.
Lastly, mission trips like this put everything into perspective for me as a follower of Jesus. You see, when you get to know a resident for a week, you get to know them and their life story, if you are willing to listen. You often hear stories of brokenness, death, and sin. You meet people who have never had anyone to listen to them, people who have never heard anyone care for them for no other reason than this guy named Jesus. It is truly a powerful experience. These experiences help put life in perspective for me. It helps me walk back into my community and have empathy for my neighbor. They help me see all people as if they were Jesus.
So today as you walk around, take the time to hear your neighbor, hear the person who is next to you in line at the grocery store, and care for them. Ask how you can help. Share about this Jesus guy who helps you get through this life.