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By: Jonathan Deatherage on: June 13, 2014
Story Type: Story    

5 Reasons to Experience Foreign Missions in your Twenties

 
It’s a cool, crisp morning here in Dallas, TX, and for some reason my brain keeps sliding back to that cool, crisp morning I experienced almost 15 years ago serving on a short-term mission trip in Russia. That morning has stuck in my brain — it’s one of those odd things where some memories just linger.

I was 20 years old, on summer break from college, and I had hopped on the band-wagon of a short-term trip to serve with my mom at an orphanage in Kirov, Russia. The flight across the globe had waylaid me — jet lag like none other. I slept the entire first day to catch up (you do that when you’re 20). The next morning, I woke up, threw open the windows and got ready to start a fresh day of ministry. Breathing in the crisp air was pure revival, and I was brimming with the joy of serving the Lord in a new place.

Today, it’s left me thinking about how valuable that trip — and the other trips I took to Mexico and Venezuela — were for me in those formative years.

As I look back, 15 years later, I can see the lessons I learned from those experiences.

1. You learn the thrill of risk and adventure, especially on mission for the Lord.

Now that I’m a dad and husband in my thirties, the words “risk” and “adventure” take a very different shape. But I still carry with me the memory of what it feels like to hop on a plane, land in a new place, and dive into ministry with excitement. And I feel that memory return to me even in this season of life, whenever I hop on a plane to travel for Camino.

2. You gain a broader perspective on faith and spirituality from cultures not your own.

I learned about the ways that evangelicals in different countries worship, serve their community, and struggle (even within the church) to live “in the world but not of it.” I got to be a guest at many hospitable homes. I was allowed the privilege of speaking to people who would listen to the gospel simply because I was from a different place. I befriended several translators and learned about the challenges and joys they faced in their home country. I learned that my own American Christianity was just that — American Christianity.

3. You witness the rich beauty of God’s worship in a language not your own.

At times it moved me to tears. I knew then and there that I was experiencing a taste of the prophecy in Revelation 4, where people from every language will praise Almighty God for his redemption. This passion has stuck with me. To this day, the desire to hear God’s praise in other languages is a motivating factor for what I do at Camino.

4. You learn a whole new level of team dynamics.

When you find yourself in a totally new country where you don’t know the language, your lifeline is that team leader. He or she knows where you’re going, how you’ll get there, who you’ll stay with, what it will cost, how you can convert your money, when you meet up with your translator. There is no room for ego here. And the other members on your team are in the same boat; not to mention you all have to lean on each other. I believe that here God blesses his people with a unique taste of interdependence that you don’t get when you have your typical bag of tricks at home.

5. You experience the joy of fully giving yourself to the work of the Lord.

On a short-term trip, the goal is very targeted, and the team can be very focused. I was able to serve without distractions. I was in that place for one reason — to tell other people about the saving work of Jesus Christ on their behalf. The memory of that feeling of freedom and focus in ministry has left a very profound mark on my life.

Serving in missions in your twenties is a unique opportunity. In a season of life where you have fewer social and familial obligations, where you are still discovering who you are and what your assignment is in this life, when there is still plenty of white space on your canvas—take a risk to go on an adventure in service of the Lord. It will be an investment on eternity, of course. But it will also have great potential to shape you into the person you need to become to embrace what God has for you on the road ahead.

Jonathan Deatherage was the Director of Communications at Camino Global from 2011 - 2014.

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