The first incredible lesson from mission work comes from witnessing joy amongst people who don’t have electricity, running water, and many other things that we consider necessities in the US. Walking through the isolated village in the Honduran mountains for the first time, I couldn’t believe how happy the people were.
All I could focus on was what they didn’t have, and I assumed they shared my concerns. But then I realized why they are so joyful – they live in a small community with their loved ones, they have an incredible faith in God, and that is all they need. They don’t stress about what they want to buy or a possession that broke; none of that matters to them.
Obviously, we have a lot of important things we stress about on a day-to-day basis with work, school, etc. Thanks to the beautiful people in the mountain villages, though, I know they should not prevent us from being joyful.
We have our loved ones, and nothing else should ever be as important. So when you get caught up in all that seems to be going wrong, have faith and remember how blessed you are to have your loved ones in your life!
2. Overcome obstacles
This lesson came during one of my most emotional experiences while on mission. We visited a children’s hospital where children born with diseases and deformities are abandoned at the doorstep by their parents.
Many of the children seemed to be in agony, and I couldn’t understand why they should have to live like that. I rushed from room to room hoping to find a more comfortable setting, but their distress only heightened.
I was shocked.
Then I witnessed one boy who taught me the powerful lesson of how to overcome obstacles. He didn’t have the use of his arms, but that wasn’t slowing him down!
He led us in making the beds for the children and did more than any of us – he used his legs to push his wheelchair across the room, grab the sheets, place them on the beds, and then directed us to finish laying out the sheets.
Watching him persevere was a great example for me. It’s so easy for me to get stressed and shut down, rather than focusing on overcoming the adversity. That boy demonstrated how we should all respond to obstacles – something bad happened? Alright, I got this. I’ll overcome it.
3. Don’t be in such a rush
This is one of my biggest struggles on a daily basis. I believe in being as efficient as possible in finishing the items on my to-do list. I walk quickly to my car and don’t like being slowed down on my way to my destination. I get easily frustrated with setbacks.
None of this makes me a bad person. But it does stop me from being the best I can be.
But on missions, I experience so much peace from walking slowly and witnessing the beauty around me: the children laughing, the appreciative smiles of their parents, and the beauty of nature to name a few. It’s incredible!
Going on missions means experiencing God’s love so powerfully in what I do and the people I meet. I can’t help but pause to thank God for His love frequently throughout the day.
This is why we shouldn’t be in such a rush here at home – we can and should be seeking God everywhere. We should view everyone around us as our brothers and sisters.
But when we get so caught up in accomplishing tasks, we move around with blinders on to the world around us. We should always be at peace and sharing that with everyone around us.
4. Be selfless, be at peace, and be joyful
Being on a mission trip is a time of pure joy. We come together as a group to serve those in need and become a family with the people whom we are serving.
And we end up receiving so much more from the people! They teach us true joy and how to love. Their impact stays with us for the rest of our lives.
It all comes from our mindset – we focus on each other, rather than ourselves. When we fixate on ourselves, oftentimes we’re thinking about how someone wronged us or why something is unfair. We get upset.
But when we focus on others, we appreciate their happiness or strive to make them happier. We experience true joy because we’re not just thinking about ourselves.
Even when people do wrong us, we should try to give them the benefit of the doubt and pray for them. And once we experience the joy from serving others, we won’t be able to bear living without it!
5. Communicate without words
On my first two missions to Honduras, I knew basically no Spanish. At first, I worried that this would make me worthless to the locals and leave me feeling left out.
I quickly realized how wrong I was.
The people, and especially the children, did not hesitate to show their appreciation for me being there with them. While I had translators to help me communicate, I was surprised by how little I needed them.
And that is because we communicated without words. We played, laughed, and smiled with each other and quickly became a family. The people were so loving that I knew what they were saying to me despite not knowing the exact words they were using.
Our actions and emotions conveyed more than I ever imagined possible!
While there isn’t a language barrier here at home, this is something we should strive to accomplish each day with random passersby. We don’t need to stop and have a long conversation with them to make them feel special.
Just by smiling at them and looking them in the eye, maybe we can make them a little happier and at peace. We can truly have a great impact with basically no time or effort!
6. Step out of your comfort zone
I’ve written a lot about the joys that come while doing mission work, but there are certainly struggles as well at times. One that is common is adapting to the living conditions where we are doing our work.
I may love going to the mountain villages, but I never quite adjusted to the freezing cold showers, sleeping on mats on the floors, and worrying about snakes while walking through the woods. During my month in Kenya, I even had to worry about the presence of lions, cobras, water buffalo, and hyenas around our campsite and while on our walks.
While these moments of stress were taxing, they were very important parts of my experiences. I needed to step out of my comfort zone to fully embrace my time with the people. By stepping out of my comfort zone, I learned just how much I could accomplish.
When we face challenges, we shouldn’t run from them. We should embrace them! Have faith that God will carry you through them. And then look back at them, see all that you can accomplish, and laugh at whatever tries to slow you down!
7. Find something you love
When I became the leader of the mission trip to Honduras, I was on fire!
I was doing what I was passionate about, and nothing could slow me down. Every accomplishment, no matter how small, energized me. I knew I was doing what God was calling me to do, and it brought me so much joy. Even when I had shortcomings, I didn’t let them get me down because I knew God would not let us fail.
This is something we all need in our lives – find what it is that you are passionate about! Be on fire everyday to accomplish all you can. See how great it feels to wake up energized for the day and fall asleep at night excited to continue your work the next day.
And then share that passion with as many people as you can!
8. Strive to do God’s will
Another one of my most emotional moments during our mission work was the day we opened a medical clinic in one of the mountain villages in Honduras. We fundraised for almost a year to build the clinic and provide the medical supplies; almost all of my free time was spent trying to accomplish that goal.
I was so driven because I believed it was God’s will to provide that clinic to the people. During the opening ceremony for the clinic, I was overwhelmed by emotion – it was incredible to see all that we had accomplished because we strove to do God’s will!
That day, I realized that when we truly seek to do God’s will, we can accomplish anything.
Each day brings us new stresses, concerns, and doubts. It’s easy to dwell on them and allow them to bring us down.
Instead, seek what God is calling you to do! Trust in Him to carry you, and you’ll be amazed by all you can accomplish.
9. Be thankful and be motivated
One of the hardest parts of mission work is when it ends.
After my first mission trip to Honduras, I became depressed while adjusting back to life at home. I was in college and nothing seemed to matter anymore. I had experienced so much love and joy in Honduras, and it seemed like I would never have it again.
My classes became a waste of time. My friends didn’t understand how much I had changed on the mission trip. I judged the other students for not appreciating how good we had it in the US. I even hated them for wasting food and other resources that would be so valuable to my new family in the mountain villages.
Clearly, this wasn’t the best reaction to returning from an incredible experience on a mission trip.
I quickly realized I needed to change my ways. I refocused on being thankful for my experience and bringing my newfound joy and peace to as many people as I could. I became motivated to not give up that joy and peace.
That is how we should always strive to live – finding joy and peace, and bringing it to as many people as we can. If that is one of our primary motivations, there is no limit to the number of people we can impact!
And that brings me to my last lesson…
10. Always be on a mission
Our mission work should never end!
We should always be on a mission, no matter where we are. I’ve shared the lessons I learned while in Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Kenya, but that doesn’t mean you have to travel thousands of miles to learn them for yourself.
Instead of reading this as lessons I learned, read it as lessons you can learn and share with others!
Think about your mission every day, whatever it may be that you are called to do or improve. Maybe it’s becoming more selfless, participating in more community service, becoming more peaceful and joyful, sharing that peace and joy with everyone around you, reflecting more on your blessings, not letting obstacles bring you down, or slowing down and appreciating God’s love in everything and everyone around you.
Whatever it is, strive to do it better each and every day! If we all do this, we’d all be so much happier and feel so much more loved.
And once you find this joy and peace, share it with everyone and never let it go!
Tim Rinaldi has been on eight mission trips to Honduras, one medical mission to the Dominican Republic, and another to Kenya. Knowing how much they impacted his life and the incredible lessons he learned, he believes he’s now called to share those experiences and joys with as many people as possible. He wrote Mission from the Depths to inspire his readers to be more thankful and committed to serving others and possibly even join mission trips of their own. Learn more about him at timrinaldi.com and check out his book Mission from the Depths