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Life Lessons from the Border

06 Apr
For most youth ministries there is a Spring Break mission trip coming around the corner.  This is the 2nd installment of the week about my perspective on a missional lifestyle.  Hope this helps in small ways.

I am not a missionary.  However, I go on mission trips.  If I would adopt that valued title then I could just as easily call myself a doctor because I have been to a hospital.  Since I spend more time in the traveling to and from the mission field than actually living in and among it, I thought I would share that wisdom.  You wanna know how to run a mission trip?  Ask a missionary.  Some of my greatest life lessons have come from crossing borders.

  1. Everything is negotiable. One of my favorite times was coming home from Mexico.  We were all on a mission trip high.  The students were proud of the work they had done.  Our final coming of age ritual was to wait in line to get back into the United States.  While doing this, there were many people who wanted to sell us their wares.  My favorite was the local food.  Did you know you could get a goat taco brought right to your car if you know the right people to ask?  Whether it was food, velvet paintings, or ceramic statues of Spiderman, the original price was not what we ended up paying.  This may not change your life, but I often ask more questions in many situations.  Don’t be cantankerous, but what you see if not always what you get.  There is always option “B” or at least a better price on option “A”.
  2. Lesson 1B is goat tacos cause VIOLENT vomiting. No story, just refer to #1.
  3. The mission field is where ever you are. There is nothing longer than attempting to get out of a country that you had to fill out paperwork to get into.  They want to make sure that everything that was in their country when you started your trip is still there (minus a goat taco or two).  Some of the best and lasting conversations I have had were in those lines to declare that I had nothing to declare.  You literally have a captive audience.  If your students don’t sit quietly, they may end up singing a new national anthem as their own.  Engage them in conversation.  What excites them about the upcoming adventures?  Why are they going?  What did they learn?  One of the richest reasons for these trips is the fellowship dynamics that come from time in a car together.  The border provides that for you.
  4. Are you going to serve or shock your own group? Sadly many of my early trips were for the shock and awe of going to a third world country and not for the love and compassion of seeing others know Christ.  I often found myself taking a sick delight, as we waited to enter into Mexico, looking in my rearview mirror at the faces of the first timers. There has to be a balance.  In the process of this being a life changing experience for your own group, make sure you never loose sight of the people you are ministering to.
  5. Is this the best use of your time? The last trip that I went on had a profound impact on my mission trip view. We were doing the typical line crawl where we rolled a car length every 5-80 minutes.  We were enjoying the local food, sights, and interacting with each other and the people in the country as we left from a great mission trip. As I sat there, fighting the temptation to order another goat taco, it hit me that I had just spent more time traveling in a van to get someplace to minister to people that I have very little contact with for another 51 weeks of the year.  My neighbor is literally dying without Christ and I have just spent the last four months of my life preparing for a trip that would have little impact outside of what our students brought back in their own lives.  I would never discount mission trips as a whole, but it must be stated that each one should be approached with care and caution.  Why are you doing this trip?  Are you empowering the locals, including long-term missionaries, to not count on your traveling once-a-year show?  This is not the “Don’t Go” part, but it is a begging from youth pastor to youth pastor to make sure you are using what God has given you to the best of your ability.


There is much to be learned during the actual trips, but don’t sell short that mandated rest time coming and going from the mission field.  There is wisdom in this time that will change your life as well.

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