Are Short Term Missions Worth the Time and Expense?

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We just got back from Misahualli Ecuador.  Our local Catholic high school had a group of seniors that wanted to opt out of the typical graduation trip. Instead of partying on the beach in Florida, or going on a cruise somewhere, these young adults wanted to go on Mission.  How awesome is that?  In my experience, thats not the norm.  It certainly wouldn’t have been my choice back then.

We put the trip together with Family Missions Company out of Abbeville, LA.  I have been on many trips with them, and they do such a good job!  They have Full time missionaries in the field, but also as part of their missions they incorporate short term trips.  Their work “in His vineyard” is a light among many.  Jesus is doing great things through them… Back to our trip!

  • Mission Trips are not vacations.
  • They are hard.
  • They require sacrifice.
  • They are filled with challenges that are uncomfortable to say the least.
  • They require us to get “out of the boat” where Jesus is.
  • However, there is no love without sacrifice.

Our first day in Misahualli was low key, and a blessing after the long travel to get there.  We did some skits and shared testimonies with the Sunday school classes at the local parish, went  to Mass and had the rest of the day off to go swim at some water falls.   That was all the time off, and next day was TOUGH!  There is no way I can adequately describe how the road was that we hiked up to the villages that day.  It was a 3 mile mud road that literally was the kind of mud that you can get stuck in and will pull your boots off.  The picture at the top of the post was what we looked like when we got there if it gives you any idea.  There were second thoughts among the grads on whether they had made a huge mistake in coming, until we got to where we were going.  When we got there, we met the people, and their families.  It was great! Partially because we got to play with their kids, teach, share testimony, and of coarse, play soccer.  But mostly because of their gratefulness.  They were so glad that we were there, and that of all the things we could be doing, we chose to leave the USA and come and see them.  Part of our group went on to the next village where Father was able to say mass.  It was the first time in many, many months that they had mass in their village. The next morning at breakfast, the previous days events were the main topic of table talk. BUT, it wasn’t complaining about the hardship of the hikes but the camaraderie of the hikes. The group struggling together and helping each other, that was the focus, after of coarse, the people we met…and soccer.

The next hurdle we had came Wednesday.  By this time, we had spent a few days ministering to, and loving the people.  We had kind of “found our groove” if that makes sense.  We left that morning to a small village and spent the morning there.  Our normal day would have been us staying there all day, but by Gods providence, we came home for lunch.  After lunch, all the missionaries went up to their rooms for anything last minute before we headed back out to the village.  It wasn’t long before we found out that we had been robbed.  Our bags were ransacked, and anything of value was stolen.  We lost iPhones, iPads, a Go-Pro camera, and the biggest ticket item was the cash for the next mission trip that was scheduled for the following week.  It was over $8000 USD.  Talk about a bummer, everyone was down!  My fear was that this would kill the momentum of the trip.  Shelly (my wife) said that this was just spiritual warfare and likened our situation to the Grinch who stole Christmas.  When the grinch stole all the toys from who-ville and waited for daylight to hear the moaning and groaning of the Whos, he heard them celebrate Christmas anyway, and we did! (kinda, not really christmas, I think you get the idea!).  We all went down to the church and prayed, had adoration, and mass.  Everyone except those who were up with the police and the investigation.  We just started praising God.  It was kinda of like when Paul and Silas were in prison, and started praising and singing to God, and their chains where broken.  Our chains on us were broken, figuratively and literally. The heaviness, sadness and fear of being violated vanished as we praised and worshipped our Lord.  We found out after mass, that some detectives came from a neighboring city and basically had an episode of CSI: Ecuador. They found out who did it and got confessions.  The Dr. Suess reference came to full circle when  all our stuff was returned.  It was in this event, that we saw that God was in every detail, and he really did save the day.  He has our back, every time.

The next thing, which was tied to the  robbery, was court and sentencing.  Apparently in Ecuador, the victims of crime have influence on the outcome of the jail time, etc.  So when one of the FMC missionaries came to us and wanted to know what we wanted as a group for justice, I was humbled and proud (if thats even possible  at the same time) when our group forgave the men that had stolen from us, and asked that they could receive mercy.  The next morning in court, we pled on their behalf and instead of receiving the maximum sentence of 10 years, they received only 2 months.  FYI, jail in 3rd world prisons is waaaaay different than jail here.  The witness of love and mercy impacted the thieves and their families (which FMC knows), but also the community as a whole.  They saw the gospel alive.  Us too!

We finished out our trip, as we started it…loving people, and there is no love without sacrifice.   Thats what it really comes down to.  Love.  So to answer the question in the title of the post, “Are short term missions worth the time and expense?”. Yes.  A thousand times over.  The answer is two-fold though.  First, the way we impact people while we are there is giving them Christ.  An elderly woman told some of our missionaries how much she likes it when we come, because we talk to them and care for them.  She said volunteers come to help, but they keep to themselves.   Second, the way we are impacted by them.  I could write a post just on this, but we see their joy, their conscious dependance on God, the way the community works together for the good of all, their simple faith and their generosity.  They have so little, and yet they will give you all they have with great joy.  Love.

How has serving added to your understanding of love and your faith life?

You can watch a video some of our missionaries put together here.

How did I get Involved in Foreign Missions?

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My family has always taken vacations of sorts.  Every year, and sometimes more, we would make our pilgrimage to the beaches in the panhandle of Florida.  When my kids were little, my wife’s Dad had a condo there.  Needless to say, we went every time we could get away.  Occasionally we would venture somewhere else, but the panhandle always seemed to be our  vacay spot of choice.  Even after he sold his condo, we still go when we can. In fact, any time I would bring up going somewhere like the mountains, I was always met with resistance. The beach was our thing.  Fast forward.

In 20o9 I began having a recurring thought.  I need to take my family on a mission trip.  It was persistent, but not overly.  I ignored it for a while, but it didn’t stop.  I shelved it under “maybe when the kids are older”.  It didn’t stop.  Over the next year or so, I would bring it up with the fam and get shot down.  The pull of the beach was just too strong.  I guess I could have forced the issue, but having some buy-in is always a better route.

By 2011, I couldn’t ignore this “Mission Trip” thought.  The Lord pressed me to the point that I knew I couldn’t procrastinate any longer without being disobedient.  It was Him.  He was calling.

I hooked up with Family Missions Company in Abbeville Louisiana and set up a trip. We went to Mexico with a group of young adults and had an absolutely amazing trip.  I guess me as a dad wanted my kids to see “how poor people lived” or “learn how to serve”. Blah, blah, blah.  Those things did happen, and they were good in and of themselves,  but that was the smallest part of the trip by far.

Here were the biggest:

  • My son had a major conversion and became a full-time missionary with NET Ministries where he met his wife.
  • My oldest daughter developed a love of foreign missions and became active in ministry at her high school and in college.  She now is serving as a summer missionary with Life Teen.
  • My youngest daughter (12 at the time) knew that God had spoken to her.
  • Remember the young adults we went with?  They were missionaries with Life Teen.  They provided a witness of college kids on fire for Jesus.  Something that my wife and I couldn’t do. We weren’t cool.
  • God used my family to model what a stable Godly family can be.  Some of the young adults had deep wounds from their own broken homes.

Certainly, we did good while we were there.  We had service projects, we gave our testimonies to the people, we prayed with them, we sang with them, and because we had a priest in the group we were able to bring the sacraments to them.

This blew me away:  one of the main things we did as Catholic missionaries was assure the people that the Church has not forgotten about them.   I live in an area in Louisiana that I can go to any of 5 parishes that have daily mass at anytime during the day.  Where we were in Mexico, there was 2 priests at the parish in the town we were in. They were responsible for 50+/- ranchos (small communities) in the area.  The people in those communities were lucky to see a priest or have mass twice a year.

The Lord has brought us on many trips since then, and we drag as many people as we can on them with us.  In fact, next week we are bringing a group of graduates from our local Catholic high school to Ecuador.  I am humbled to be able to help them go, but more so to be around young people desiring to love and serve Jesus in the poorest of the poor.  They inspire me!  Anyway, please pray for us,  and I’ll hopefully have some interviews to put up on the podcast, and some pictures when we get back!

Would you ever consider giving God a chance to work through you in foreign missions?  Or let Him work in you?

Put Out Into The Deep!

Welcome to catholicmissionary.net!

We are under construction but hope to be wide open soon!  The site will be focused on living life as a Missionary Disciple, and what that means for us.  My name is Will Travis, and I am going to be putting up podcasts, blog posts, interviews, videos, and anything else I can to explore the mission of the Church, evangelization, mission trips, and christian unity. Wow, that’s a long sentence!

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Put out into the deep!