How A Mission Trip Can Change Your Life by Travis Sharpe

There have been two very pivotal life changes for me in the past 20 years. The first one was in 1996 and the second one was in 2014. Both of these times, I found myself way outside of my comfort zone and totally immersed in another world. Both of these times changed the direction of my life as well as how I viewed the world around me. Both of these times were a result of going somewhere I hadn’t been before and seeing something I hadn’t seen before.

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I want to tell you a little bit about those two events and then tell you why I think they were life changing for me. Ready? let’s go!

1996

In 1996, a friend took me to the Salvation Army on Greene St. in Augusta, GA. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was just getting dark, it was cold, it was scary. We went to pass out tracts and invite people to church. I was scared to death because I had never encountered a large group of homeless people before.

The intimidating group was made up of wrinkled old men with haggard faces, a few middle-aged men who seemed to not care about their personal hygiene, and several women that cursed and drank liquor. A few weeks later, I would discover that everyone in this group had one thing in common, they had all been barred from the shelter because of misconduct. I had met the worst of the worst.

I went home that night after spending an hour or so shaking their hands and hearing their stories. But something strange happened as I tried to fall asleep. I kept seeing the faces of those men and women. They flashed before my mind like a slow-moving slideshow. I couldn’t shake it.

For the first time in my life, I found myself truly concerned about the souls of strangers. For those of you who know me, you know that that night was the beginning of a long, successful, ministry to the homeless population of Augusta, GA. God used that experience to give me a new purpose and direction in my life.

2014

In January of 2014, my wife April, my son Hunter, and myself joined a team of preachers, doctors, and nurses for an incredible two-week trip to the Philippines. We went in response to Typhoon Yolanda which wreaked havoc on the Southeast Asian island country in November of 2013.

It was during this time of exhausting medical, evangelistic and disaster relief ministry that God opened my eyes to the needs of the homeless children in the Philippines. It was there that I met Pastor Antonio Ner who, a year later became my partner in a brand new ministry that would reach almost 1000 needy children each and every week.

Once I saw the desperation and hopelessness of the homeless families with my own eyes, my life was forever changed. I knew I had to go back. I knew God was going to do a new thing with our ministry and family.

The why

Why don’t we have these life-changing experiences when we see commercials about starving children or when we hear the stories of the missionaries who come to our churches? I’m not saying it never happens that way, but I am saying that most of the life-changing moments in our lives happen because of a significant experience, usually one that involves a totally different scenario than we are accustomed to.

Separation

When we go on a mission trip, we leave. We cannot go, if we do not leave. We leave family and friends. We leave or jobs and other responsibilities. We leave our homes and our comforts. We leave everything that is normal for us. As a matter of fact, before we can “go ye into all the world”, we must “leave” our part of the world.

I believe that separation is key. In our fast paced society we seldom slow down long enough to listen. We are so busy with all of the things that make up our life that we actually let life pass us by. However, on a mission trip, those things are stripped away from us, we are separated. With all of the distractions gone, we have an uninterrupted opportunity to concentrate on the needs of another group of people as well as the desires of our Savior.

When a Christian is truly separated from all of the non-essentials of life for a period of time, the needs of a sin-cursed world can have a great effect on our desire to make a difference. It is then that we begin to see the lostness and the desperation that those without Christ are facing. It is then that we begin to tune into the possibility of a life that follows the heart of God.

 Brokenness

Another key as to why a mission trip has the potential to be life changing for us is the brokenness that can occur while on these trips. Life as usual doesn’t really lend itself to the kind of brokenness that I’m speaking about here. I’m referring to a broken heart that comes when God loves someone else through us.

While we were in the Philippines in 2015, my daughter Sarah, who was 11 years old at the time, experienced this. She became friends with a boy her same age, his name was Leonard. Leonard was living on the streets when we first met him. He was always dirty, had lots of sores on his frail body, and was extremely shy. For some reason, Sarah became attached to him, she had a special affection for him.

After we helped Leonard and his family, he began to do much better. He went home and we even helped him enroll in school. He was looking better and his sores were almost gone. Sarah was so happy, we all were. You can image the pain we all felt when we were out visiting some other kids who were sleeping on the streets one morning and came across Leonard. He had left home and returned to live on the streets. Once again, he was dirty and his sores had returned.

Sarah ran over to Leonard and, holding him, begged him to go back home where he would be safer. When we left there that morning, she cried on my shoulder and asked me why her heart was hurting. All I could tell her is that I thought God was using her heart to love Leonard. She had experienced brokenness.

On mission trips we meet people we wouldn’t normally meet and we are exposed to things we wouldn’t normally be exposed to in our day to day lives. We become “eyewitnesses” to life in another culture and it has great potential to break our hearts. God often uses that brokenness to call us to a life of service.

Realization

Remember the separation I spoke about? How that when we are separated from distractions and duties we tend to become open to other things? I believe that’s because it allows us to finally realize what is important and what isn’t so important.

Before I met the homeless people, I really thought it was important to have nice things. It was important for me to spend all my money on whatever I wanted. However, after being exposed to the grave needs of my new friends, all that extra in my own life didn’t seem so important anymore.

After visiting Bantayan Island in the Philippines and meeting good Christian families who had lost their homes and had no money or insurance to help them rebuild, my needs seemed awfully small. I was realizing that there was more to life than my own wants and desires. There was more to life than comforting myself and “enjoying the ride.”

A mission trip provides the perfect set up for a change in perspective. If done right, while on a mission trip and serving others, we can realize that God may have bigger plans for our life than we do.

In conclusion

Have you ever wondered why God hasn’t seemed to call you? are you searching for God’s will in your life? I want to encourage you to go! You don’t have to leave the country, but you do have to leave your comfort zone. For some, this might mean a trip to the other side of the world, to others, it might mean a trip to the other side of town. Wherever that is for you, just go. Your calling might be waiting there!

Question: Has a mission trip ever changed your life? Tell me about it in the comment section below. 

P.S. Want to go with me to the Philippines in September? Click here for details!