Mission trips are just one of the many things that Christians disagree about, but it tends not to be one of the "big" or "main" issues that people talk about. Some people see it as a minor issue compared to other, bigger things, but it's actually really important that we talk about it, so here I am, ready to talk about it.
Let me first say that I understand both sides of the argument surrounding whether or not we should go on mission trips and I don't want to try to change anyone's beliefs, just express mine. The argument against going away on mission trips makes sense to me. The most common thought process goes along the lines of "why go away on a trip to do work when there's so much to be done and so much need right here at home?" I get that. I see the need. I understand. But I think that anyone who makes that argument has never gone away on a mission trip, hasn't experienced what it's really like.
I have been on 6 (7 by the end of the month) mission trips and on each and every one, I've found that this single week out of each year is the closest I've ever felt to God, the most I've ever felt this kind of constant "yes" feeling, the feeling that I'm truly living exactly as He would have me live. That isn't a feeling I could get at home. At home, I wouldn't be able to put aside my regular job (which is an online job, meaning taking days off really doesn't happen) or other demands on my time like helping to take care of pets and my grandmother and the plants and honestly everything. In going away, it's much easier to truly set the week — the entire week — aside to do this work.
I think also that, if I was working at home, in my hometown/area, I would be more likely to be driven by the way doing all of this work looks, it's impact on my reputation. In a tiny town where everyone knows everything you do, this is an easy trap to fall into. But we aren't called to do work for our reputations, we're called to do work for God, His glory rather than our own. And, as much as I hate to admit it, I don't think I could do the work solely for His glory if I was doing that work at home.
I don't pretend to be a preacher or a theologian or anything of the kind, but I would say that there is Biblical backing to going away too. Though I am by no means anywhere close to as dedicated and faithful as Paul was, I can see some of his work in what we as a team try to do. Paul went on three huge mission trips during his lifetime, leaving behind his home to go out and share the Gospel of Christ.
The work that our team does isn't necessarily as large scale as Paul's work and it would be beyond prideful to say that it's on the same level, but I do think that we can look to his work as the greatest missionary to ever live (besides Jesus Himself) as a kind of precedent for what we do.
Jesus said Himself in Matthew, "go therefore and make disciples of all nations..." (Matthew 28:19). For me, the most important word in that sentence is "go." I don't pretend to understand what God wants me to do even half of the time, but I have no doubts that our team is called to go, that this "go" is meant for us and so many others. And we see the proof of that in our time together, in our work and in our rest.
In our work, we see houses rebuilt and homes restored. I once saw a woman moved to uncontrollable tears by the gift of some cinder blocks. I saw an entire church get to worship in a building that they didn't think it would be possible for them to have. I have experienced firsthand what it looks like to find true, deep joy in something as small as leading Bible School kids through a ridiculous song. Our work might physically bless the homeowners and the people we are sent to serve, but it spiritually blesses us in a way that nothing else can.
In our rest, we find simple joy in being together. The fellowship and community that we share during a mission trip is all of the confirmation I need to know that this is what God wants us to be doing for that particular week. There was a guy last year who was on his first ever mission trip that said, when he looked around at all of us sitting, fellowshipping and genuinely taking simple pleasure in one another's company, "you know, I think this is what Heaven's going to look like." When he was asked about it later, he said that the level of fellowship we have on mission trips and the work that gets done for the Lord is exactly what he expects from Heaven.
I don't pretend to know anything that goes on between God and other people, but I know that for me, going away on mission trips is something that God has placed right in front of me deliberately. Yes, there is need in our home areas, but there is also the pressing call to go out, work, and share everything we've got with others in other areas. I can see both sides of the argument, but I can also see all of the things that I've experienced in my time going away on missions and can safely say that this place, so close to what Heaven looks like, is somewhere that I want to be.