The first mission trip I went on was in 2015. I was 36 years old and had just started working on a communications degree at NDSU. I was working full time at a job that paid me well and offered great benefits, but I needed a change. I would come home everyday feeling like I wasn’t making a difference. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. 

I thought change would come from higher education, and it did, to a certain extent. The real change, though, came on the mission trip I went on after my first semester. 

The trip was to Chicago. A former youth minister at Atonement, Andrea Paulson, asked me to chaperone a group of high school students for a week. She said, “just pray about it.” 

“Okay, Andrea,” I thought. “Sure. I’ll think about it.” I did and decided I would go along. It turns out that trip wouldn’t just be a turning point in my life, but would change it completely. 

Initially, I thought it would be a nice break from “work.” It didn’t take long to realize how much work it would be. We were pulling weeds outside a transitional home for homeless people who just came out of the hospital, packing meals for Feed My Starving Children, sorting clothes at a thrift store, helping people pick out groceries at an outdoor food pantry. We were working. It was hot. We didn’t shower for a week. It was work, but it was also a blessing.

It was also a blessing to the people we were serving, but also to us. We were serving others, visiting with them, hearing their stories, learning about what their life is like on a day to day basis. While we were serving them, they were blessing us. They shared with us. They opened our eyes to different cultures. They showed us that even though they were from a different part of the country and in a city 80 times bigger than ours, they were image bearers of God – like us. They were our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We were also growing in friendship with one another. Some of the people I served with are dear to me today, even though I talked to them for the first time in a city 650 miles from our church. I became friends with other chaperones, but I also became good friends with several of the students on the trip – all who have since graduated. I have even met some of them for coffee a time or two. 

That trip literally changed my life. Sometimes people say “literally” when they actually mean “figuratively.” That trip literally set me on a trajectory that took me from plowing snow and fixing potholes to the Middle School Ministry Director at Atonement Church in Fargo. 

Mission trips will do that. God will take your heart and change it completely if you allow Him to. 

Earlier this week, we heard from a high school senior who had her heart broken for the homeless. She joined us to discuss homelessness and her experiences on a mission trip to San Francisco.

Next week, we’re visiting with a man who’se life was changed in Nicaragua. So much so, that he started an organization specifically to help the people of El Ojoche, Nicaragua. Look for that podcast September 9th.

If you’re ever given the chance, go on a mission trip. It will change you. I promise.