International (MNN) — We forget that mission trips are often as much of a blessing to the volunteers as they are to those being served. Too often we picture missionaries as people who have their lives in perfect order.
But very often, that’s not the case. Missionaries need the mission trip experience just as much as the communities they aid.
A mutual blessing.
Organizations like MOSES Inc. remind us that missions bless those serving. Judy VanderArk of MOSES says their mission trips often turn out to be life-changing experiences for their teen volunteers.
This is the main reason she does what she does. She says, “I’ve been doing it for 27 years, and I’ve seen a lot of teens come through our ministry.”
Many times she’ll reconnect with the teens years later to find out what MOSES meant for them.
“Sometimes I find this out years later: I find that they came home from a trip and their behavior changed, their lifestyle changed, and they started really investing themselves in church and other activities,” says VanderArk.
Often they will change their career paths–many of the teens heading into pastoral ministry, teaching, counseling, coaching, and often the mission field.
VanderArk says, “We’ve got MOSES alumni on every continent now, I think.”
MOSES is a unique mission organization. Their mission trips usually last about a week. Because of this, their focus is not directly evangelism. “We really feel that that’s the long-term investment that can best be made by the pastors and teachers in the local churches there,” VanderArk explains.
Enabling these people to hear about Jesus is still the most important thing, however. “We will certainly assist them. We feel our role is a partnership one. We want to meet these church leaders and find out what the needs are in the community and assist them as best we can.”
VanderArk says they often find that many children have come to Christ through the VBS material they provided for the pastors and teachers in the community. Essentially, MOSES helps the leadership continue to bless their communities with the Word of God.
MOSES trips are entry trips into the mission field. It’s easy to sign up for one, and they ask only that participants respect leadership and follow their rules.
A MOSES story, a meaningful life.
*Mickey grew up going on mission trips with MOSES. This fit in with his decision to go to a Bible school where he met his wife, *Minnie. The couple took their missions-minded momentum and headed to a Muslim country near India.
For ten years, Mickey and Minnie served the people. In this country, they raised 3 children. About 3 years ago, they were asked to leave quickly.
VanderArk suspects that somebody reported them to the authorities. They were given only a couple of hours to gather their belongings and leave.
Now they’re serving in another Muslim-populated area nearby, keeping in contact with the people from their old country. They long to go back to the country that had become a home for their family.
VanderArk says, “It’s a very risky business because you want to share the Gospel with these people, and yet there is such a price for the people in the community if they turn to Christ and embrace Christianity whole-heartedly.” They will be cut off from their community, and maybe even killed.
“Some of these MOSES alumni are actually risking their lives to share the Gospel in some of these very closed places, and it’s a very beautiful thing to see,” says VanderArk.
Why is MOSES so effective?
Most of the teens who go on trips with MOSES have heard the Gospel before. In fact, most have grown up in a Christian home. Yet somehow, these trips have a huge impact on their faith.
“I think a lot of teens that are being raised in Christian families and even in the Church are searching for Jesus. They want the real Jesus with skin on, not just memorized prayer and doctrines they’ve heard all their life,” VanderArk says.
Sometimes this search leads them to pursue the wrong friends and habits. Though they long for the meaning only Jesus can bring, they head down a path that leads them away from Him.
But when they join MOSES, they have a good chance of finding what they were looking for in the first place.
“I think they have a real encounter [with Christ] when they come on these trips, because we just have beautiful worship time and devotional time. The teens that are already there…serving in leadership capacities are the ones that really minister to these young people that are trying to find their way,” VanderArk says.
While MOSES equips churches in other countries to reach their communities, they are hoping to multiply disciples closer to home.
“We would rather assist those communities in more humanitarian ways, meanwhile increasing the faith of those that we bring with us,” explains VanderArk. MOSES hopes that when the trip participants return home, “They in turn will seek to live for Jesus and seek to find His will for their life, which may entail giving up the comforts of this country and going somewhere else to share the Gospel.”
How can you help MOSES?
Pray for MOSES to continue to be able to operate. Pray that teens would continue to go on these trips and cultivate a deeper relationship with God.
You can also support MOSES financially.
And here’s another reminder about a MOSES fundraiser on Saturday, October 18. It’s their biggest fundraiser of the year and is taking place at Grandville Christian School in Grandville, Michigan. Click here for more information.
*Names changed for security purposes.