Did you go on a mission trip this summer? Or maybe you know someone who did?
Summer mission trips are as common today as summer youth camp was when I was kid. We stamp the passport and hold babies in the orphanage, organize summer camps for the underprivileged, clean teeth, pull out teeth. We teach English. Teach the Bible. And some teach English using the Bible (Let’s Start Talking).
When the trip is over, we return home to settle back into the normal we lived before the trip. But sometimes, we’re not so sure if we like normal after all.
For many of us, the experience stirs the soul. We hope our efforts made a difference in the lives of the people we served. But we’re also hoping the trip will make a difference in our own life.
Have you been there?
If you’re hoping to learn from the experience, consider these words the American philosopher, John Dewey, is known for saying…
“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”
This week, as the season for summer mission trips comes to an end, I want to encourage you to take time to reflect if you served somewhere.
Reflection will help your short-term experience make a long-term difference in your own life.
And guess what? There’s a great book by an author I love that’s perfect to help you reflect on your experience. The book is, “Now What? Spiritual Discernment for Cultural Encounters” And the author is Gary Green.
Yes, he’s my husband (which gives me plenty of reasons to love him). But really, I’m not the only one who thinks he’s a great author. Dan Buchelle, director of Missions Resource Network, says he recommends that churches require anyone going on a mission trip to work through the book upon their return. And Rob Browne, director of Youthreach International, said they use “Now What?” in their debriefing packet.
Gary wrote this reflection workbook because each summer he sends out students with Abilene Christian University’s World Wide Witness missions internship program. After the students serve 6 to 8 weeks abroad, he wanted a resource to help them reflect on their experience upon their return. He wanted to help them discern God’s movement in their lives, and help them wrestle with the question, “Now What?”
“Using a combination of reflection questions and Ignatian principles, this workbook facilitates spiritual discernment in the lives of those who have traveled abroad. It moves participants from short term missions to long-term maturity, from tourism to transformation.” Gary Green
So as your summer is coming to an end, and before you get in full swing of “normal,” take some time for reflection. And why not use “Now What? Spiritual Discernment for Cultural Encounters” for a resource to guide you through the process? If you served with a group, work through the book together so you can process with others who shared your experience. You can order it here on Amazon as a book or in kindle form.
This weekend we’ll be moving towards “normal” in the Greenhouse when the dorms open on Saturday. My house will have a little less traffic and I might have some time for quiet reflection too.
We’d love to hear from you in the comments if you went on a mission trip this summer. Where did you go? How did you see God moving in the ministry you served in? Did you return home with any new insights?