I'm home and my suitcase is unpacked from another Spring Break Mission Trip. From the first Christ on Campus trip in March of 1985, we have taken at least one Spring Break trip every year for the past 25 years. This was at least our 13th trip to Vida Nueva Ministries in Piedras Negras, Mexico.
This year's trip provided some unusual difficulties - especially a US State Department warning against traveling to Mexico! The University of Arkansas "helped" our cause by forwarding that to UofA students. All of that prompted some understandable parental concern. But after reading the warnings and talking with friends in Piedras Negras, we were confident that we were not taking any undue risks. The decision, however, did prompt some coverage by the local newspaper.
So why go? Is the cost, effort, inconvenience, and occasional risk worth it? Here are some of the reasons we feel these trips are important:
1. Some admittedly inexperienced help to the mission. Though we can't always accomplish much, we can provide manpower to advance some projects.
2. Some personal experience with an impoverished culture. Though Piedras Negras is in much better economic shape than it was fifteen or twenty years ago (thanks to NAFTA), as soon as you cross the border you realize that things are completely different than in the US. Driving through the outskirts of town to the ministry site provided a first-hand glimpse of life in poverty. Even though it is a short glimpse, and not close to what much of the world endures, it does begin to open the eyes of students to those in need and allows them to evaluate their standard of living.
3. Extended time away to focus on God and what he is saying to us. The highlight of this trip was the nightly times of worship and the devotions that students shared at lunch and each night. Removed from the distractions of classes, work, facebook, and television, we were better able to worship and listen and share and refresh ourselves spiritually, even while we were wearing ourselves out physically.
Most of the time, we breeze through our daily life and weekly worship and Bible study times without much thought. We don't reflect and we don't apply. We just go. We are most open to what God is saying and doing when we are taken out of our usual context and begin to look and listen in fresh ways.
These trips provide those opportunities. Over the past 25 years, students have been touched by God in dramatic ways. Some have accepted Christ. Some have changed their career goals. Some have gone into ministry or missions. Some have made choices to sacrificially use their resources to care for those in need and advance the work of Christ.
Students this week made some significant decisions that will affect their lives and the Kingdom of God for years to come. That's why we go. That's why we will continue to go.