The Unexpected Gift of Joining a Mission Trip

When we decided to join a mission trip, we knew serving and helping others would be a big part of the experience. But we never knew how much we would get in return.

Wayne and I worked together for years, and I’d hear stories about his mission trips. Then, I started giving monthly to support the mission and received the newsletters. The newsletters helped me understand what happened on a mission trip and how he supported pastors and leaders in Cuba. So, when the e-mail arrived one day about a summer trip, I knew Cam, my 15-year-old son, and I needed to experience this together.

We live a typical sheltered suburban life, and I wanted Cam to experience how everyone may not live like us and how we can help others. Of course, I was nervous about visiting a communist country with my child, but I trusted Wayne and knew God would be with us. I felt this would be an opportunity to reconnect us spiritually because we had lost a family member the prior year and remove the many daily distractions. After talking to Wayne about the trip, it was confirmed. We were going, and I was thankful for my husband’s support every step of the way.

After joining a mission trip, I discovered that reading about the Cuban people, spirituality, love, and giving is different on paper or screen. It’s life-changing experienced first-hand. This was a journey with my son, my spirituality, and the people we met and traveled with. As a result, I could reconnect with God, find new and different ways to connect through God, let go, and give things over to God.

Sharing experiences with the Cuban people and their deep faith will have a lasting impact on me. One woman radiated with the Holy Spirit and had more riches than anyone I know with her faith in and love of God. I was reminded of the power of prayer and was deeply moved by the intensity of group prayers. You could feel God with us and move through the people praying and through the people that we were praying for. 

I left the US with a typical teenager who transformed into a caring, giving, and loving young man. One night Wayne went to see a pastor, and the power went out. Cam shifted into protector mode and insisted that we check on Renee, Wayne’s wife. I also noticed that he kept an eye on Betty, who was in the house with us. It touched my heart when Cam wanted to say a prayer at a women’s prayer group. Also, he introduced us in Spanish everywhere we went, even in front of a large congregation at church. Cam has gone from studying Spanish to wanting to learn Spanish as a second language.

The relationships that Cam built and seeing God through those relationships influenced his life. He admired Wayne for his dedication to service and appreciated the time spent talking and explaining Cuba to him. Raphael, who we met on the trip, challenged Cam to continue the missionary work and service that started in Cuba. Betty, who we also met, instantly became a friend and encouraged him with his Spanish. He was impressed and inspired by her accomplishments with English and her mission with children at such a young age. They also enjoyed discussing roller coasters, sharing English and Spanish words, and jumping in the waterfall.

If you’re considering joining a mission trip, it’s important to have flexibility and patience. From a small double bed and a disco ball on the first night to the expected but random power outages, we just rolled with anything that came along. If you want to take a picture or video of something, just do it. Keep a journal with you. Write down a sentence from each pastor and church to help remember later. Drop a pin on your phone to remember where you visited. Download a Spanish translator on your phone that doesn’t need the internet. Most importantly, allow yourself to take time to appreciate the true beauty and love of God that you experience without the distraction of work, electronics, family, or other problems. You must be flexible and open to new experiences. Have an open heart and be ready to give and receive from a deeper place.

Cam and I plan to join a future mission trip. We loved the people we met. We loved helping and giving to others, but we know we took way more than we gave. I did not feel I was volunteering since I got back so much more than I gave. The love, prayers, and continued friendships will last for years.

– Caroline F.

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