Fuel Your Faith - Missions
It was late in the evening by the time I arrived at my first short-term volunteer spot. After a long day of classic travel anxiety and frustration, I was looking forward to taking a shower and crashing out in a comfortable bed –but, as it turned out, neither was an option.
The trailer that would serve as my home for the summer was scattered—no,
encrusted—with rat droppings. The mattress, which took up most of the bedroom, leaving only 10 inches of walking space, reeked with the deep odor of deathly mold. I opened the door to what I thought was the shower and toilet to find only an un-flushed dusty toilet. The shower block, with tepid water and drip-drip pressure was at the top of the hill. Too exhausted to clean up my quarters enough to make them livable, and too tired to scale the hill, I opted for the comfort of my small Datsun for the night (If you’re ever in a similar situation, I recommend the passenger seat as the steering wheel just does not offer the same freedom of movement). Sadly I forgot to crack the windows, and awoke the next morning to the drips of condensation on my face. My only consolation was the knowledge that at least nothing would be nibbling at my ears during the night!
For me, that night was the start of an incredible three-month adventure that I will never forget.
No matter whether you serve short or long term, domestic or international, the first thing that crosses your mind when you arrive in an unfamiliar–and sometimes uncomfortable—situation is, “What am I doing here?” I had many opportunities over those next three months to ask myself that same question—over and over again.
I also found that each time the answer would change. Sometimes it was the prospect of the shame of my own wimpiness if I were to give up. I had to grit my teeth and get through it. Other times I felt certain I was following God’s will for my life—and everything was wonderful. What I discovered from my life experiences and the stories of greater warriors than I is that our faith can only grow when we use it—when we are faced with difficult situations and have to rely on God to help us through.
Real faith, living in the centre of God’s will, involves a fascinating set of twists and turns. There is no one door to go through or one life choice, but multiple pathways all with countless possibilities. Volunteering to serve as a missionary is one of the best ways to fuel your faith. They say you have to be flexible—which is often code for, “We have not prepared as well as we should have but need you all the same.” To sense God’s leading, to make a difference, to expand your options, to reflect on your direction, to know yourself and recognize the world you live in is mission work.
Knowledge without practice is like great art in a vault. Mission trips give you the opportunity to practice what you have learned and what you know. They give you the opportunity to find out what you’re made of. They offer the chance to make a positive difference in a world that desperately needs good news.
- Japhet De Oliveira
Chaplain for Missions, Center for Youth Evangelism Associate Director