In 2015 my oldest son and I went on our first “Mission Trip”. I was hesitant and was convinced that this wasn’t my thing. The trip was to Guatemala to help do some work at an orphanage outside of a small town. I really had no idea what I was getting into or what to expect from the trip. Traveling around the world engaging in this type of mission was not really for me. But!!! I was open to the experience and honestly was hoping more for my son to get something out of it than me.
What is a “Mission Trip” you ask? This is not a military operation but could be kind of like one as I’ve experienced on later trips. In a nutshell, the trips I have gone on have all been construction trips. We’ve built churches in Brazil and Honduras, remodeled old buildings for Ukrainian refugees in Poland, given out water filtration systems to folks in the Amazon, built buildings for a church in Ecuador, etc. Some offer opportunities for medical treatment, financial support and hope for the people we’re immersed with. These trips can be anywhere on the planet in any type of terrain and environment. They really are a great way to experience many types of cultures and deepen your own understanding of people around the world. These trips are affordable ranging anywhere from $900 upwards to $5,000 or more. It all depends on the task for the trip, the supplies needed, length of stay and transportation to that location.
For me, these trips are opportunities to get outside of myself. Opportunities for me in my Christian faith to take some time away from the social world we live in and spend time with God. I often reflect on where I am and where I am going in my personal life. It’s a win/win for me because I like to serve and those we are serving need and want us there. It’s also kind of cool to be able to look at Google Maps and think to myself, “I helped build that”, for legacy buildilng. I often think of the ripple effect from our team’s efforts and the impact our team’s efforts have had on the people during our stay.
After serving 26 years in the Army and having traveled to many places around the world it’s hard to just stop seeing all that is out there. I’ve always enjoyed experiencing new cultures and new places. There’s a really cool quote I read not long ago.
After working in the veteran mental wellness space for a number of years, one thing I noticed and heard guys talk about often was the need to “scratch the itch”. That’s why many get into security contracting like I did. Still a war zone, still with the bros, much better pay. After my first trip in 2015 I scratched that itch. It wasn’t until 2018 when I went on my second trip. I was sitting at my computer one day and received an email from church promoting a trip to The Amazon River!!! Whaaaaaat??!?!?!?! Heck yeah, man! That’s some straight up Indiana Jones stuff right there. I told my wife about it and she simply replied, “You should go”. I thought, “Well, that was a quick and short reply”. So, I signed up and a few months later I was in Manaus, Brazil about to board our boat for the week. That was a pretty incredible and challenging trip. The first day on the river, and a day of work, a couple others and I decided to jump into the river to cool off. Knowing just about everything in there wants to bite or eat you, we didn’t care. How many others can say they’ve swam in the Amazon? Well, things went south pretty quickly. In the gut. I must’ve gotten water up my nose because the next 24 hours my rear differential was leaking pretty bad. That came and went after some Cipro and butt locker meds. The next year I ended up leading that trip back down to The Amazon. It was another incredible trip with its own set of challenges. One challenge was when my son and I were able to treat a man on the beach in Manaus who’d been cut and stabbed. That was crazy.
So, traveling to austere environments to serve is much like being in the military. No, people aren’t trying to shoot you or blow you up and you’re not hunting bad guys. You’re actually making an impact and doing good things for people who desperately need help versus being a pawn for our government. Another reason I enjoy going is because in the New Testament we are called to Build the Kingdom of God. Go out. I’m not really good at memorizing scripture but there’s one about “Who shall I send?”, and the other replied, “Send me”. So, yeah, send me. I enjoy being a part of that one. I’m a servant and not a preacher. I’m fine with that. I enjoy others seeing God thru me because of what my hands can do.
On the last trip back in August to Honduras, I got pretty sick again. I got some water up my nose and into the ole belly. I was down for about 24 hours. I had learned by then to always bring a ZPAC and Cipro with me on these trips. Along with anti-diarrheal meds. They work! Our rooms in the small pueblo we were staying in had no running water and we were without power for about 24 hours due to rain high up in the mountains. While lying in the fetal position on my bed, asking God to please heal me, I had this epiphany. I thought about the fruit of the vine. A grape. How does a grape become wine? It has to be picked off the vine, dropped to the ground and pressed. What comes from that process in fine wine. So, I thought to myself, “A person in an elevated position (success, ego, power, comfort), needs to be pressed down so God can elevate them and lift them up”. It’s also important to know that you didn’t lift yourself up on your own. Thanks and praise should be given to God for His mercy and healing. Often times people are pressed down but aren’t lifted up because they haven’t call out to Him for help. When they do, they can be lifted up in His name for His kingdom. Pretty cool, I thought. That has helped me to remain humble and to look to Him not only when I need Him, but also when things are going good, I need to give thanks and praise Him. There have been a few times in my life when things were all hunky dory and WHAM!!! I got humbled through an injury or some other stifling way.
I’ve learned that facts tell, stories sell. I’m not trying to sell anything but I’ve learned that my story and stories of my experiences have been able to encourage others, myself included. People say, “Knowledge is power”. I disagree. Knowledge in action is power. Without action, it’s simply knowledge. Anyone can know. Traveling the world and engaging in Mission Trips have given me experience. Not only experience with other cultures, world travel, TSA and Global Entry, but experience in the Heavenly realm. I tell people that it’s hard to see good and evil in the United States. Our society is so blurred together. Those lines of good and evil are blurred. It’s not until you go out into the wilderness will you experience true good and evil. I’m talking about real spiritual good and evil. Like witch doctors in a small village levitating things or like baptizing a woman who was dead for two and half days about six months prior. Yeah, I did that. Her personal story of her journey to Heaven and Hell is goose pimpling.
Wrapping up. I’m a huge advocate for Mission Trips. Especially for combat veterans. It offers the experience we are familiar with but it shifts the cause. Veterans are amazing people with amazing skills and abilities. No veteran should ever think like I used to. “Well, I’ve been separated from my tribe. Now what am I going to do with my life? I have no real skills for the civilian world. What do I have to offer? I have no value anymore”. Wrong. Just plain wrong. Vets are the perfect people to go back out into the world and create change and impact generations in places others won’t go. Those skills and abilities simply need to be repurposed. Lastly, as a believer, going on these trips can fill a person with encouragement and a better understanding for God’s master plan. Don’t just be a church goer. Be a church grower.
Hope you enjoyed this article and my hope is that it speaks to some of you who may be searching for something more meaningful. Next year I plan to lead at least 3 trips. Where? I’m not sure yet. I lean on God to direct me. I would like to take a team to Africa and dig wells or something. Imagine giving water to a village who’ve never had it. That’s life changing.
I do my mission trips with Builders International located in Ozark, MO.