Tips from a Recent Graduate: Go on a Mission Trip
A significant factor in my decision to transfer to Azusa Pacific was the importance that they place on faith and the steps they take to encourage students in this area. I was specifically interested in the Center for Student Action—an office on campus that organizes service activities for students in the local community and across the world.
When I started college, I knew I wanted mission work to be part of my experience. I engaged in mission work in high school, traveling to both Chile and Mexico, and I wanted to continue in that type of ministry. So, after my first semester at APU, I decided to apply for an Action Team. These groups are sent all over the world. Some stay in the U.S., others go to Peru, China, Ireland, Tanzania. I was presented with the opportunity to apply for three teams: I chose Chicago, Alaska, and Spain. It felt like a huge leap of faith to interview for the Spain team as the cost was high and I would need to commit a month of my summer to the ministry, but I felt that this was where I needed to be. After my interview, I was selected not only as a member of the team but also as a leader.
Why Action Teams?
A unique piece of participating in an Action Team is the preparation beforehand and the contemplation afterward. For almost five months preceding the trip, our group of nine met weekly to discuss what we would be doing in Spain and to brainstorm ways we could make a meaningful impact. Our team was different from the other 30 Action Team sent out—we were the only team focused specifically on art. Each member of our team was pursuing some type of degree in the arts. I was majoring in writing, six of my teammates were studying acting, one focused on film, and one on music. This created a bond between each of us as artists striving toward similar goals.
I remember during one of our trainings, our leaders told us that no matter what, something unexpected and surprising happens to every team. Still, I convinced myself that ours would be the trip that ran smoothly, no bumps or bruises along the way. Perfection was the word I wished for. I don’t know why I ever tried to convince myself of this!
Quickly I realized that perfection would not be possible. I learned to let go of control and allow God to do the work. Spanish culture was opposite of my natural instincts, and it took me at least a week to begin to feel at peace there. Our team motto was “Be the Light and Go Beyond.” We desired for God to shine through us and to step into a life beyond our usual comfort. This experience would become the most important and impactful time during my college years. I learned how to be an positive leader, treating my teammates as peers while also earning their respect. I found ways to listen rather than to speak, to hear people out when they were struggling to make positive decisions. I discovered that international travel can be much more challenging than expected. The worst parts of me came out, and I figured out how to reconcile my failures with my successes. I learned that ministry can be almost anything, from teaching people how to paint to sitting with them to enjoy a meal. I discovered that rest is important, and it is infinitely better to stop and breathe than to fill every moment of life.
Why Come Back?
I’m still processing and learning to understand the lasting impact that this experience had on me, on my teammates, and on those that I have loved better because of my time in Spain. I discovered that if we desire to give patience, or kindness, or any other aspect of love to those around us, we must first learn how to receive these things from God.
If you have the opportunity, take advantage of CSA and their Action Teams. This was a life-changing experience for me and my teammates. Go and get to know another culture, and experience God’s presence in a new way.
Posted: May 12, 2018