Posted in Mission Trips, My Thoughts, Student Ministries

Guatemala 2015 Mission Trip recap

I had the privilege and honor of leading a team of 12 from Calvary Bible Church to work with AMG, and specifically our friends the Wilson’s, during the week of April 27th – May 3rd.

We began by going to the AMG headquarters in Guatemala for lunch. After flying hours to a foreign country, we had the local specialty for lunch…pizza ūüôā

Team first day

Then after lunch we went and saw an area of the city where people live and work at the dump. Yes, live too. If you look closely in the pictures below, you can see¬†some small tents set up…those are where families live. They live by pulling food and items from the trash to either sell or use to live themselves.

It was a very sobering sight to see, that is for sure. The team mostly just stood in silence as we looked at this scene.

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The majority of our week was spent at Camp Canaan, which is an AMG camp. One of AMG’s big ministries is that they have schools for kids. The kids in their schools are kids that have been sponsored by someone else, which gives them the opportunity to go to school. And then part of their school experience is that they get to attend camp for a week.

The week we were at Camp Canaan, there were 101 kids attending. The kids there were ages 11-13, and many were street kids who were being sponsored by someone through AMG. The first night there 4 of us were able to share our testimonies with the kids in their chapel building, which was really cool.

2 of the days we were at the camp, we shared a Bible Story with them; we acted out the story of Joseph while it was narrated. After sharing the story and a short lesson of what we can learn from that, our team did a craft with the kids. The first day’s craft was tie-die bandannas, and the second day’s craft was making a picture frame for a camp photo we had taken of all of them the day before.

One of the days there I had an opportunity to have a long conversation with the camp director, and he shared a really cool story with me. He said that after the second craft was done, a kid came up to him crying. He asked this kid why they were crying, and they proceeded to tell him that the camp picture we gave all the kids as part of their craft was the most beautiful gift they’d ever received.

Think about that for a moment…a simple photo is the most beautiful gift they’d ever received. WOW!

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Our big project while at the camp was to plant avocado trees for the camp. The purpose of these trees are to provide food for the camp, as well as give them a way to make some income if needed by selling some of the avocados they grow.

I initially expected this project to not be that difficult…but it turned out to be much hard than I had thought. The ground we were digging holes to plant these trees was very hard, as we were there at the end of dry seasons so it had not rained much for the past several months. We had to dig holes around 3 feet deep and a foot in diameter, so it was a lot of digging.¬†We were also in the hills, so it was not flat ground. That made wheel-barreling the good dirt we were using to plant the trees with to the holes we had dug somewhat difficult at times.

I was extremely proud of our team and how hard they worked. Our first 2 days at camp we worked hard from breakfast till lunch, and then did the Bible Story and crafts in the afternoon. On the 3rd day we spent the whole day working on the tree project, and the last day we worked all morning until we had to pack up and leave camp. In that time we were able to plant 46 trees!

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We spent the last bit of our time in Guatemala visiting Antigua and hiking the volcano Pacaya. After a physically and emotionally tiring several days at Camp Canaan, that was a great way to end our time in Guatemala.

There is SO MUCH MORE I could write about this trip, this is just a brief recap of the week. But to keep this from being a short book, I will refrain from writing it all. Just suffice to say this was one of my favorite¬†mission trips, and God definitely spoke to me personally through this trip. It was an amazing trip, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this team.

Team at Pacaya

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Posted in Mission Trips

Benefits and challenges of short-term mission trips

I love short-term missions, local and global. I have been going on short-term mission trips since I was 12 years old.

I am now 35, and I have been on a total of 20 short-term mission trips. I’ve been a part of trips to Colorado 3 times, Romania 4 times, the Dominican Republic, Mexico twice, inner-city Omaha, Belize, Mississippi, Ecuador, the Philippines, and Haiti 5 times.

I recently took on the role of Mission Trip Coordinator at my church. I not only go on and lead short-term mission trips, but I also coordinate other trips that my church sends out.

I love setting up opportunities for students and adults to go around sharing¬†God’s love by serving others in a variety of ways. I am blessed to have been on so many trips, and have gained so much experience with¬†how to lead trips as well as just having a more global understanding of life.

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1. Learning to work with others РWhen you take a group of people on a trip to a new location for a week or more, with the main purpose being to serve others, they have to learn to work together.

This kind of thing can happen in other ways, it¬†is not exclusive to short-term mission trips. But it happens on¬†a much larger scale and in a more focused way than many other instances. If people are a part of a team where they live, they can still go home at the end of the day to rest and be alone. Not on a short-term mission trip…you are with your team 24-7 for the entire trip.

You can find times to go off for a little bit of privacy, but you don’t go home to your own bed and spend hours away from your team. You stay where you team stays, eat where your team eats, work where your team works, etc. On a short-term mission trip you learn how to work well as a team,¬†because you have to.

Challenge: Dealing with inner-team conflicts. Yes, because you are always around each other on a short-term mission trip, you discover the good and bad of each other. This is inevitable. And sometimes, when one or more are not acting in a mature manner, that will cause some conflict within the team.

A leader should be prepared to deal with this, and even do some team training ahead of time to minimize it as much as possible. A leader should make sure each person on the team knows what is expected of them and help them learn the skills necessary to deal with conflicts properly.

2. Great use of resources – Let’s just be honest, we are good at wasting our time and money on things that don’t really matter. Sure they are fun, and there’s nothing wrong with fun. But we have begun to make leisure a way of life, pouring countless resources (time, energy, money) into having it. We work in order to be able to afford vacations, nicer TV’s, bigger boats, and having money to spend on our self however we choose. None of those things are wrong in and of themselves, but when they become our main focus, then that is a problem.

When you go on a short-term mission trip, you are giving of your resources to go and help other people. People who could use your help, will benefit greatly from your time spent serving them, and need to hear the life changing message of the gospel. What better way to use your resources?!

Committing to go on a short-term mission trip says you are choosing to care about others and not just focusing on using your resources for yourself. It is a great way for you to use some of the resources that God has blessed you with.

Challenge: Finding the time and money – When you promote a short-term mission trip, or hear about one being promoted, the biggest deterrent that will keep people from going will be either their time or their money. Many will be interested, but either can’t be away from work for that amount of time, or can’t spend that amount of money (even though often those going will¬†do fundraisers to ask others for a portion of the money).

A leader should understand that this will come up as people talk to you about the trip. I’ve heard countless times things like “I would love to, but don’t have enough vacation time” or “I really want to and feel led to, but I don’t’ have that amount of money”. And what I have learned to do is not try to convince people to go, but rather listen to them and encourage them to see if they can make it work.

The reason I don’t try to convince people to go is that if¬†they don’t want to make it work, then they won’t¬†make it work. Instead, I listen and talk with people who express those concerns, and I offer some advice to them as they determine what they will do. If they decide to go, great. If not, we are still friends and I move forward with the team I have.

3. Gaining a life changing experience – Going on a short-term mission trip to a new location, staying there and working very closely with a team of people, meeting those you are serving, getting to share the gospel, and experiencing new cultures are all part of what makes it a life changing experience. Those who go gain new perspectives on life, develop new friendships, and will have a lot of pictures to share of the people they met and places they saw.

But ultimately the reason it is a life changing experience is because God does a work in your life and heart on a short-term mission trip. When you go on a trip like this, you are obeying God’s command to do missions work¬†(Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:19-20). When you get away from your normal pace of life, many of your normal distractions are removed and you are able to connect with God in a fresh and new way. When you are in a new situation, you will rely on God more, drawing you closer to him.

I have had several major life changing experiences in my life, and most of them happened on short-term mission trips.

Challenge: Staying focused: Satan does not want you to allow yourself to be used by God on a short-term mission trip, or begin to connect with God in a fresh and new way. So on a short-term mission trip, it is easy to get distracted and lose focus. Homesickness sets in, getting annoyed with others on the team, wishing things would go differently than they are, and more. Those are all things that cause us to lose focus and miss what is happening and God wants to show you.

A leader needs to make sure there are regular times of devotions on the trip, that there are team meetings to discuss plans and check in with each other as a team, and that there is some scheduled rest and recreation on the trip as well. Don’t plan more¬†rest and recreation than work, you are on a mission trip after all, but make sure there is some so people can refresh and gain energy.

A leader needs to also work to be aware of how each individual on the team is doing. For a larger team, a leader should break everyone into “travel teams” with a leader over each team who can also work to be aware of how those on their specific travel team are doing. When someone is struggling, come alongside them and encourage them. People easily lose focus, and Satan will be attacking them. Pray over them regularly and help them to be strong and keep their focus where it needs to be.

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Setting up and running a short-term mission trip is, to put it lightly, exhausting. Team meetings, trying to coordinate fundraisers, making sure all the proper paperwork is done and turned in on time, communication with the team members as well as the missionaries or mission organization, being the one who makes the final decision on things when you know some won’t like it, constantly reassuring parents who are sending their students, and working hard to ensure your team’s safety as much as you are able (nothing is a guarantee).

It’s exhausting. But after I’ve recovered from a trip, I always look forward to the next trip. Even if a trip was particularly difficult and I dealt with a lot of issues…I still look forward to the next trip.

Why?

Because the benefits of going on a short-term mission trip outweigh all the challenges and difficult issues. 

If you’ve never been on a short-term mission trip, I encourage you to go on one. If you have, go again, and bring a friend or family member with you.

If you lead or plan to someday¬†lead trips and have questions or need advice, please feel free to contact me. I’d love to talk to you.

Posted in Mission Trips

Ecuador 2014 Mission Trip Recap

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I had the privilege and opportunity, from August 1st to August 12th, of leading a group of 11 students and 4 adults from my Student Ministry to the country of Ecuador for a mission trip. While there we worked with a missionary couple that our church supports, doing mostly Children’s Ministry by way of a¬†VBS program. There was also a team of Ecuadorians from near Quito who came and spent the week with us.

We helped the Ecuadorian team and the missionaries run 2 different VBS programs. One of them was in the town of Borja in the morning, and the other was in the town of Baeza in the afternoon. Both towns were a 2 to 3 hour drive from Quito over the Andes Mountains. We stayed in the town of Borja that week.

In each VBS we had roughly around 100 children (it varied from day to day). The Ecuadorian team did the upfront part of VBS (teaching, singing, organizing)…since they know the culture and speak the language. We helped with planning and implementing¬†some of the¬†crafts, organizing and running the games, doing the motions to songs, and sitting with and participating with the children throughout the day.

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The missionaries we worked with live in the town of Borja, which actually has no Evangelical Christian church. They have started a Bible Study, which we attended one evening. Based on that night’s attendance (minus our team), their Bible Study consists of roughly 15 people, with several of them being children. This is the only Evangelical Christian gathering/meeting in the town, so it was a very cool experience to get to be a part of it. The night we attended, several of our students and adults shared testimonies, as well as did some of the people who are from that town/area.

We attended the church in Baeza where we held VBS 2 Sundays. The first week our singing team sang 2 songs as part of the morning service, and several students helped in the Jr Church. The second week I preached, a couple of our students shared testimonies, our singing team sang 2 songs, and some of the students helped in Jr Church. After each Sunday service we went out to lunch with several of the people in the church congregation.

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The scenery around where we were in Borja and Baeza was incredible! We were in the Andes Mountains, so we were sounded by amazing views of mountains and valleys. Because of the higher altitude, clouds were not far above us at times. We were able to take a day to drive and visit the “La Magica” waterfall, which was a spectacular sight.

We were also able to visit the equator line on our last day. That was a fun day to enjoy some sightseeing and souvenir shopping as a team after a long week of work.

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The mission trip overall was definitely a great experience, and we were able to be a part of some awesome ministry happening in the country of Ecuador.

It was cool to see how God used our team and the Ecuadorian team, despite our language and cultural differences, to work together for the purpose of sharing the gospel with the children in Borja and Baeza. Even though most of us couldn’t understand what the other was saying, we worked well as a team.¬†We even¬†became very close with each other…our last night in Ecuador after VBS was done, they invited us over for dinner so we could hang out one last time.

It was cool to get to be a part of ministry that is happening in a location where there is not a lot of Evangelical Christian influence at all. Being at the Bible Study and hearing the testimonies of those how live in that area talk about how God is at work in their lives was definitely a very cool experience!

Praise God for all that he did in us and through us while we were in Ecuador! I pray that he continues the work that began both in our own hearts as well as in the hearts of those we had the privilege and opportunity to minister to.

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Posted in Media, Mission Trips

Les Petits Anges de Jacmel orphanage Mission Trip report

The¬†team I was a part of spent 8 days on the trip to the Les Petits Anges de Jacmel orphanage; 2 days traveling, 1 day off (which was totally needed), and 5 days of some of the hardest labor I’ve done. The project was to add a second story to an existing building for the orphanage to use. We worked from morning till night each day, making quite a bit of progress on the structure we were building (more than I thought we could do).

At the end of the trip, we were able to leave enough money with the pastor of the orphanage to ensure they would be able to finish the project. Even though we as a team were exhausted,¬†we wished we could of stayed one more day to finish the roof…but it was nice to know that the money we left would go toward finishing the project.

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This is where we built the second story of the building. This picture was taken a few days before we arrived.

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This is what the structure looked like when we left. This picture was taken in the same location the first picture was taken.

This is a highlight video of our trip and the work we did on the trip.

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Last week my friend Almando who lives in Haiti took a drive to the orphanage to see how much more work had been done. He shared with me that the 2nd story was almost done, and that the boys at the orphanage moved into the building on April 12th. How cool to know it is being used now!

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Posted in Mission Trips

Les Petits Anges de Jacmel orphanage

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This is the “Les Petits Anges de Jacmel” Orphanage…translated into English, that means “The Little Angels of Jacmel”. This past summer when I was in Jacmel with several of my students for a mission trip, we visited this orphanage. While there I realized that they did not have enough adequate space for all the boys they have. I spoke with the pastor of the orphanage, and he shared with me how they have part of the building that they would like to add a second level onto in order to create another room, but they do not have the money or resources to do this.

That conversation stuck with me, and when I returned to the states I  began putting together a plan to go back to this orphanage and do this work project for them. When I shared this plan, 6 other people from my church and 1 friend who lived in Pennsylvania joined the team.

Part of what we raised for this trip covered purchasing all the materials for the project. This was both to ensure we had plenty of work to do on our trip, and to be a blessing to the orphanage since they couldn’t afford any materials for the project. Then a week before the trip I discovered that the estimated cost for the materials had changed by a significant amount, and it looked like we would be in danger of not being able to purchase all of the materials…until my church stepped up in a HUGE way by taking a special offering and raising the needed amount!

Tomorrow morning at 3am, a team of 8 of us will begin traveling to Jacmel, Haiti. The following day we will head to the “Les Petits Anges de Jacmel” orphanage to begin working on this addition.

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This is where the addition will be built…this is where my team and I will spend the next week working. It is such a privilege and honor to be able to go to this orphanage and show the children who call this place home the love of God in a real and tangible way.

When I return I will share about the trip.

If you would like to follow what we do each day, follow the link below…click on Calvary Bible Church under ‘Current Trips’.

http://www.prayingpelicanmissions.org/journals

Posted in Mission Trips

Haiti 2013 Mission Trip recap

Well, I made it to Haiti and back in one piece. I’m definitely exhausted from the trip, but I’m in one piece ūüôā

I spent a week with a team of 31 people in the town of Jacmel, Haiti. We arrived on a Saturday evening and left the following Friday morning.

As you can imagine, it was hot in Haiti while we were there. We had to get used to being wet most of the time, especially when we were doing any sort of work. We drank lots of water to make sure we stayed hydrated, and took breaks in the shade every so often to keep from overheating.

This is a brief recap of what we did on the trip:

1-Children’s Ministry – several people on the team spent the majority of their time working with kids. At the church we were staying at and working with, the kids would show up each day around 8am. Our team would teach a Bible Story to the kids, sing songs with the kids in both Creole and English, and do games and activities with the kids. Those working with the kids also spent a lot of time and energy showing love to the kids who came to the church each day.

2-Work Project РWe spent a portion of our day doing a work project at the church in Haiti that we were staying at. First, we sanded and scrapped the outside of the building, which is made out of concrete, to get it ready for painting. Then we spent a few days painting as much as  we could get done. That involved climbing on ledges, hanging of the bars in the windows, and scaling ladders so that we could paint the building. It was a lot of fun and we were able to get a lot of work done in the few days we had set aside to work.

3-Orphanage – We had the privilege of spending time with a group of orphans at a local orphanage. The first day we were with them, we took them on a field trip to the beach. This was a big deal for them as they do not get to leave the orphanage they are at for things like that very often. At the beach we simply played in the water with them. It was so cool to see how happy they were to be playing in the water. We also had the opportunity to go back a second time later in the week to have dinner with them. At the end of our first time visiting them, we had given them several bags of donated clothes. When we came back the second time, all the kids were wearing their new clothes and were eager to show them to us. It was very cute!

4-Mountain Village – The church we were staying at and working with has been working to begin a church plant in a small remote mountain village. This village is high up in the mountains outside of Jacmel, and is very primitive. There is no electricity, and most who live up there don’t go down the mountain very often. We took a day to go up to this village to do some outreach and be a help and support to the church leaders that are trying to start this church. We did that through a soccer game (to attract people in the community, then had a church leader talk with them and share the gospel) and doing some Children’s Ministry.

5-Soccer – We ended up playing 3 soccer games while we were in Haiti. Two of them were against the team from the church…we won the first game and lost the second game. Our third game was in the mountain village, which was a tool to get the community to come out. We won that game as well. Playing soccer in Haiti is a lot of fun, and it has become a regular part of our trips there.

6-Church – On Sunday morning and Tuesday night we were able to participate in the church service at the church we were staying at and working with. Several on the team got up front to sing songs, a couple of students shared their testimony (one each service), and in the Tuesday Night service I had the privilege of preaching a short message. Attending church services in other countries has always been one of my favorite parts of traveling. It’s fun seeing how other cultures “do church” and I love that while I don’t know what is being said because I don’t speak the language, I know we worship the same great God.

The trip to Haiti was a successful trip in that we were able to accomplish much, had the ability to do both some outreach as well as just be an encouragement to the believers there, and I know that God used the experience  to change the lives of many of the students that went down. Thanks to all who supported this team and trip through prayer!

To see some pictures and details of our trip, check out our trip journal at http://www.prayingpelicanmissions.org/journals?tripid=2320

Posted in Mission Trips, Student Ministries

Haiti 13

Early in the morning on August 3rd I will be boarding a plane to travel to Haiti. I will land in Port Au Prince, then take a bus over the mountains to the city of Jacmel. With me will be a team of 17 Sr High students, 8 College students, and 3 other adults…making up a team of 29 people. We will be joined in Haiti by 2 of my former students from Omaha to make a total of 31 people going to serve the Lord by serving the people of Jacmel and surrounding areas.

We will be staying in the Baraka Church, and will be working alongside the church in connection with Praying Pelican Missions. This will be my fourth time leading a team to Haiti; third time going to work alongside the Baraka Church in Jacmel.

We will be doing a lot of Children’s Ministry, both through the church as well as at local orphanages. We will also be doing different work projects, encouraging the local body of Christ, and playing soccer games against local teams as an attraction in order to share the gospel with those in the community.

It will be a hot and tiring week, but an amazing week as well. I love seeing God move despite the language and cultural barriers, and few things get me more excited than watching the students and adults I have led to Haiti be touched by God through the people and situations we come in contact with. I have absolutely fallen in love with the country and people of Haiti, and I always look forward to going there.

I will post again after I return and share about the trip. If you would like to follow what we are doing, you can check out our online trip journal. Go to prayingpelicanmissions.org and scroll down to “trip journals”. Click on “Calvary Bible Church” to see our journal. If you’d like to leave an encouraging note/comment, you’ll need the password “serve”.

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