If you have ever taken a missions trip, you know that you've experienced something wonderful, unique, and, unfortunately, something rare. My church is very blessed to have five special families serving the Lord as missionaries. Right now one family is home from Chile, South America on furlough. Furlough is a time for the family to rest, relax, and readjust a bit, and is also a time for the church to get reacquainted with the missionaries. I love it! You get to see how the kids have grown, reconnect with the wives, hear the missionary preach often (you gotta get em while they're here!), and get a first hand report of the trials, the ups and downs, the blessings, and the satisfaction of missions life. But there's something that goes beyond the missionary coming home to the USA and you hearing about all that is done on that field. No, it's deeper than that.
When you get to take part in a missions trip, you see first hand everything (and more!) the missionary reported on from the pulpit. You experience first hand what the missionary wife shared at that ladies fellowship. You hear the language that seemed so foreign to you when the children sang it for special music suddenly be almost all that you hear... well, except for back at the missionaries house where English is spoken. Suddenly, you connect, very well, with the feelings of loneliness and frustration that the missionaries experience. And on a missions trip you also learn to pray in ways you've never prayed before. I remember on my first missions trip back in 2002, there was a group of about 25 of us who were supposed to go to a train station where a train would take us to another city two hours away. As we laughed and joked our way to the bus stop, the bus drove right by us and we suddenly realized that we just missed our bus! Not a good scenario, considering we also needed to make the metro in time to get to the train. Only God (in His Great Mercy, I might add!) got us there with no time to spare! We were sweating that one out as we ran through the train station. Can you imagine a group of 25 Americans each carrying luggage and shouting, "Hurry! Hurry!" running through a foreign country?!?! "Safety In Traveling" suddenly become a major prayer request for missionaries after that!!!! Why? Because you've experienced it, and it has become real to you.
On this past trip I made back in May, the missionary family decided to play a game. Or rather, have us play a game they made up! The group was divided up into two teams, and everyone had to participate in communicating with a Czech person: either at the grocery store and pharmacy in town, or at one of the village shops. Yours truly was given the mission of getting one pound of cheese. Easy, right? Well, the problem is the Czech Republic doesn't use ounces and pounds, but rather kilograms and grams. So once we figured out how much a pound of cheese was (or so we thought), I confidently walked up to the deli counter and requested my cheese, using some very poor Czech and lots of finger pointing!!!
I realized my mistake too late, when the guy handed me my cheese. We had done the math wrong somehow and ended up with four pounds of cheese, not one!!!!! Ahhhhhh! What was I to do? Hand him back three pounds and say "sorry"? Not exactly.
It was a good thing there were 25 of us there and this little game took place at the beginning of our trip. The funny part was the other team got too much ham, so it all balanced out in the end and we ate ham and cheese for a while;).
The missionary's wife really put it into perspective when she said that they didn't have a big group of people to go back to and laugh at their silly mistakes. Instead, they faced the problem day in and day out until they learned to communicate with the people. Wow.
Missions trips are life changing and there's no doubt about it. Speaking from personal experience: GO. If it means you *sacrifice* some pleasures back here, who cares? GO if God presents the opportunity. You will not regret that decision. Not ever.