Once upon a time I spent a summer in New Orleans and my life changed.
It was the first extended period of time I spent away from home. I went on mission trips before. I traveled outside of the country, and I also served on stateside mission trips. However, three months of immersing myself in another culture with like-minded people had an influential impact on my life.
I think that almost everyone could benefit from spending time volunteering and serving outside of their comfort zone.
1. You learn about your insignificance.
It's time to face the facts: you aren't the most important person in the world. Maybe equally as important is the fact that your culture isn't "right" or "better" than another. Just because you do things one way in America doesn't mean other cultures should do the same.
If you leave your home with an open mind and dig deep into the vibrancy of another culture, you will understand that cultural diversities should be celebrated.
On a mission trip, you aren't there to fix things. You are there to come alongside and be a partner.
2. You will form friendships that last.
My very best friendships came from the summer I spent in New Orleans. They were right beside me, serving, caring, and loving people with me. I lived with those people for three months. I knew their hearts. We had similar goals and passions.
If you are looking for some great friends, go on an extended mission trip. You will learn what friendship should look like, and I guarantee you'll find friends for life.
3. You'll see a world outside of your own.
On the mission field, your eyes will open and see the desperate needs other people have. You will understand real poverty. You will appreciate what you have.
You will see what education, medicine, family, and friends look like in another culture. The things you see will touch your life forever.
4. You will change.
I served with a disaster relief organization for over two years. The phrase I heard the most from volunteers was, "I came here wanting to help people, but they were the ones who changed me."
I think people often go into the mission field thinking they will drastically change a person's life. But, hopefully, your life will also change drastically. Bring the lessons learned home and start living your life intentionally.
5. You'll learn compassion.
This is at the heart of mission trips and volunteering. Compassion doesn't mean feeling sorry for someone. Compassion isn't just seeing a need and meeting it.
Compassion means getting your hands dirty. It means you see someone's need, and you get down on your knees and help lift them out of their problem.
I don't think you can fully feel compassion until you reach out and do something because compassion needs to be coupled with action.
6. You'll grow.
You won't be able to fight it. Even if you go on a mission trip with the wrong attitude, growth can still happen in your heart.
You'll grow spiritually and in maturity. You'll grow closer to God and people. You will grow as a person.