by Gwen Waggoner, Calvin OPC, Phoenix, AZ (August 2016)
There are so many facets to a mission trip. I am super grateful to the Lord that I had the opportunity to go to the Czech Republic this summer, and I am excited to be able to share a little bit about it.
My older siblings had all been on mission trips and came back with stories about their teammates, the missionaries, and the families they served. I was incredibly excited when I was accepted to Team Praha. I started talking with my team, got my assignment, and preparations began.
As we got closer to leaving, I became more nervous. That blind-sided me a little bit. I think I felt like I had a legacy to live up to, plus, I was the youngest member of the team.
Our departure was a little rough with a day-long delay in New York. We landed a day late, but thanks to the hard work of my teammates Rachel, Scott, and Eli, we were able to jump right in. With the exception of a couple of days of sightseeing, the next three weeks were non-stop action.
The first and last weeks were both VBS weeks in different locations. Those weeks were special to me because we had the privilege of sharing the gospel with little ones and seeing some of them begin to understand the gospel. Hearing their questions and seeing them think about what they were hearing was so precious. I loved the singing times, because they don’t care what they sound like. They just sing. To me, singing is special, especially when it is to the Lord. They were busy weeks, but they were so much fun!
In the Mountains
The middle week was also special, but turned out very differently than I expected for a couple of reasons.
We took about 20 Czech teenagers up to a lodge in the White Carpathian Mountains in the south of the Czech Republic for 4 days. After dinner on the first day, I injured my knee pretty seriously and was handicapped for the rest of the week and could not participate in the program. A lot of people told me in person and on Facebook that God had other plans for me, and they had no idea how right they were.
First, my team surrounded me with such amazing love and care that it still astounds me. Several of them prayed with me each night and that is something that will always be special to me. God in His grace and providence manifested His love for me in the support of my team and in my interactions with the Czechs in the evenings.
Secondly, I was able to spend three priceless days studying the Bible and praying right there in the mountains in the middle of His creation, and my relationship with God grew exponentially, something I had not expected.
I was incredibly blessed with an amazing team for my first mission trip. Some of the people I already knew, but there were also people I hadn’t even talked to yet. After the first few days, we were all joking around with each other and being super goofy. They were the people who were there for me through it all, encouraging and praying for me, and I love them all. We had a common purpose to share the gospel, and that brought us all closer together. I also think that the people on this team all have such loving, special hearts. Our team leaders, Josh and Jessica Lyon, were incredible, keeping us on track and encouraging us in love.
What I Learned
When I was talking to friends and family and doing some reading in preparation for going on this mission trip, I was encouraged to remember why I was going. So, I kept telling myself, “This is not a pleasure trip, you are there to serve others, not yourself, Gwen.”
For that reason, I was kind of taken aback to discover how my faith and walk with God grew and changed during this trip. We were doing the Lord’s work, and He promises to bless us and be with us when we do so. Therefore, it only makes sense that while you are teaching and talking about the gospel, you come to understand it better yourself. And when you understand the Scriptures better, you know your Redeemer better and grow closer to him.
So I encourage anyone considering a short term mission trip to remember that there are two sides to it. While we are there primarily to help the missionaries and those they minister to, we will also personally experience God’s blessing and grow in Him as a result. Don’t go just to strengthen your walk and faith in Christ, but remember that our Father does bless His children when we seek to glorify His name and kingdom.
I have come away so blessed by my teammates – people I love and have grown close to. Being able to encourage and touch the lives of the Czechs was an honor and it is humbling when they hug you and don’t want you to leave. It is very eye-opening to realize that God uses you to spread His word. The friendships you will make will last forever and be so incredibly precious.
You will never regret doing our Lord’s work on earth. I certainly don’t. He will bless you abundantly in that work, and He will use you to bless others.