Kaitlin DalPorto, BJU alumnus
During the summer of 2017, I had the opportunity to travel on the Southeast Asia (SEA) mission team. This team was very unique in that we only carried a backpack to five different countries, during our six-week trip. It was an amazing experience! I learned so much, not only from the missionaries and church leaders, but also from the people that we ministered to.
You might be skeptical about going on mission trips because of the expense, I was too; but little by little money comes in. Churches who aren’t able to go may still be passionate about missions and would love to help send you! I’m sure you’ve heard stories about how God has provided money in amazing ways for mission team members. God will give what is needed to do what He has called you to do!
So why should you “give up” a summer to go on a short-term mission trip? Not only are we called to go, but going on a mission trip will also open your eyes to the world, the gospel, and the body of Christ in a way you never thought possible. Mission trips grow your understanding of culture and challenge your ability to share the gospel with those who surround you every day.
There are many reasons for going on a short-term mission trip. One of the main reasons is to learn what your role is, in missions. Missions, the Great Commission, is not an option. It is something that God has commanded us to do. It does not matter where you are, you should be working to further the gospel. It is important to know how to pray for, send/give, help, and encourage our brothers and sisters on or off the field. It’s difficult to effectively and sincerely do that without seeing the ministry first-hand.
One of my favorite memories from the SEA mission trip was talking with ladies from the church in Kachin State, Myanmar. While there, the mission team helped with the sessions at a pastor’s conference. We had been there for a few days before we were able to really connect with the people. Although there was a significant language barrier, we were still able to have special fellowship with these dear sisters in Christ!
Another highlight of the trip took place in Thailand, where we were able to be part of the Southeast Asia Missionary Kid Camp! Our team members were “counselors” for the week. I loved how the missionary kids enjoyed being together, learned about God, and had fun (regardless of what others thought). Being at this camp helped me to realize how often MK’s are overlooked, whether on the field or on deputation. Missionary kids have a major role in their parent’s ministry.
In Bangkok we got to help one of the churches with their English class outreach. There I realized the usefulness of teaching English as a tool to build relationships and share the gospel.
I think the most eye opening and convicting experience happened in Indonesia. The religion there is predominantly Muslim. One day we went to an island a couple hours away. We had to take several different water taxis and ferries and basically island hopped to get there. It was not an easy journey. Once there, we noticed that everything was closed and there seemed to be no one around. We were told that the island was 100% Muslim and today was a special holy day spent at the mosque. After the service time ended, we were able to talk to the man with whom our friend has been building a relationship with for several years. We only spent a couple hours there before our long trip back. To see the dedication and effort put into simply building a friendship, not even sharing the gospel yet, was so convicting. How much do I go out of my way on a daily basis to share the gospel?
One of the biggest things that God taught me was the unity that we have in Christ. I was able to see it all throughout the trip. There were countless times when we were with people who ate different food, wore different clothes, sang different songs, lived a different way, enjoyed and gave value to different things, and even spoke a different language. We had literally nothing in common it seemed. But you know what? We did. Christ. And we could worship and praise Him together! Attempt to share with one another what He has done for us! Pray for one another in our own tongues, because we serve an awesome God who can hear prayers in any and all languages. Our Creator made both me and the sweet older lady in the mountains of Myanmar to each play a specific role in the Body of Christ. To see and meet my brothers and sisters in Christ literally around the world is an experience like no other! Knowing that we serve the same God and will spend eternity together praising Him is an incredible thought.
One of the conversations we had with a missionary in Thailand opened my eyes to a valuable reality. The most critical part in missions, and really in life, is to have a gospel minded focus. Geography does not define missions. We have a single goal in life: to glorify God and share Him with those around us. While it will be carried out and implemented differently based on the place or situation, that doesn’t change what God has called us to do, nor does it make serving in your own neighborhood inferior in any way to that of one serving in the heart of Africa.
God used this trip in many ways. Yes, I was able to learn much about the world, different cultures, believers in various contexts, and a better understanding of the body of Christ. And that alone is incredible and life changing! But, through this trip, I met a family with whom I’m now serving on the field. It is a story I love to tell because God’s hand and leading in it are so clear.
My church in the US supports the Wagner family, currently serving in Myanmar as they help to translate the Bible. Every week we pray for a different supported missionary. Over Christmas break the Wagners were the missionary family of the week. Because I was with them the previous spring I decided to message them that we were praying for them. Several messages later they asked if I had plans for the fall because they needed someone to come and homeschool their three oldest kids. I was shocked but so excited about the possibility. My major was International Studies, so think history, politics, culture, language. I had never seen myself teaching nor did I learn anything about it in college. But I did have a desire to spend more time with a missionary to learn if God might have me serve in that way eventually. This was a perfect opportunity!
I have been in Myanmar since the end of August last year. Collectively, my time here will soon be almost exactly nine months. I have definitely done and seen some incredible things! No, it hasn’t been easy or the “glorious life abroad” that some might envision. I am just living my day to day life here. I go through the same (if not more) sin issues, struggles, and heartaches (albeit with less ice cream). I’ve had the joy of seeing the work and fruit of Bible translation here. I’ve visited villages, made friends with local people, and grown to love it here!
It all happened because I went on that SEA mission trip almost 2 years ago. This opportunity wouldn't have come up had I not been on that trip. Just because you go on one of these short term trips doesn’t mean you’re signing up to move across the world. God may call you to do that. But no matter what, through a trip like that you will be better able to serve the church and the body of Christ as a whole, all while accomplishing the great commission.
How are you working to carry out Matthew 28? What steps are you taking to “go”? If this is something that you have struggled to do, a short term trip is a perfect way to open your eyes to your role in God's mission around the world and in your own neighborhood.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.