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I’m serious. I like the comforts of the same old, same old. I get up at the same time every day. I go to the gym and run every day. I eat oatmeal for breakfast every day. I drive to the office the same way every day. And it goes on from here. I like routine. I thrive in a life a discipline. For me, change means disruption. It implies an end to what I’m used to. And this scares me.
For the past three summers, I have traveled with my family on short-term missions trips to Santo Domingo Xenacoj in Guatemala. These trips have helped me to look at change a little differently – more positively.
Today, I want to help you identify three positive changes that happen when you go on a short-term missions trip. I’m hoping you will be challenged to think differently about change and about short-term missions. And I’m also hoping you will consider going on a short-term missions trip to change somebody’s life, to change your life, and to change the lives of those around you at home.
The first house we built was for Betty and her family. I’m not sure how Betty lost her husband. He may have died, or he may have simply abandoned his family. Either way, Betty has been left to parent and provide for her family with five children. This is not an easy task.
The average working Guatemalan makes eight to ten dollars a day. With this money, they have to pay for food, clothing, and housing. For the most part, food costs the same in Guatemala as it does here in the United States. If I buy a gallon of milk here in the United States, it costs about the same in Guatemala. How much do you spend on groceries a week for your family? Now imagine how challenging it must be for Betty to provide for her family. Meanwhile, her family lives in deplorable conditions. Their house is made with pieces of corn stalks tied together to make up the walls. There are pieces of metal laid on top of the house. This is the roof. And the floor is made of dirt. The family of six either shares a single bed or they sleep on the dirt floor at night. It is difficult for a family like this to ever thrive. They do not benefit from public assistance. They survive if they are lucky.
As short-term missionaries, we had an opportunity to intervene. We had an opportunity to give Betty and her family a chance to succeed in the future. We built a simple house made with a concrete floor, wooden walls, a permanent metal roof, and electricity. We also provided beds for everyone in the family. This is the kind of boost family’s like Betty’s need to move from just surviving to thriving. Betty and her family will experience better health as a result of their new beds and new house. The kids will be more productive in school which will lead to a better future for each of them. And they had the opportunity to experience the compassion and generosity through the people who donated the money for the house and through those who helped build the house.
A short-term missions trip gives you the opportunity to change somebody’s life.
The first time I visited Guatemala two years ago, I saw real poverty for the first time. I saw how 95% (or more) of the world lives. I met people who get one meal of rice and beans – if they are lucky. I met people who work in sweatshops for twelve hours a day while earning eight dollars. I saw people who don’t have clean water and healthy cooking facilities. I learned to appreciate the things I had at home. I learned to have a more open heart and mind to helping those who have less than me. I stopped chasing so diligently after things at home in our American culture that eventually fade away. And I started dreaming differently about how my family and I could make a bigger difference in the world. This trip changed my life.
A short-term missions trip will change your life.
How you respond to your trip will impact those around you. I have had the opportunity to share so many stories and to answer so many questions because of my experience in Guatemala. I also see those around me differently. A short-term missions trip will help you to have a mission mindset for those you interact with on a daily basis at home. My trips to Guatemala have motivated me to slow down and to be more present in my interactions in my office, in my neighborhood, and in my own home. I have seen how my trips have made a difference in the lives of my friends, family, and co-workers.
A short-term missions trip experience will change those around you.
Now it’s my chance to change your life. I challenge you to start planning your next short-term missions trip – maybe it’s your first missions trip. You will never go if you don’t start planning it. It’s not too early to start planning for a trip for next summer (or earlier). A trip like this can be the catalyst for major change for others and for you. If you want to see change in this world, be the change – go on a short-term missions trip!
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