New York City is the home to millions of people, it is a melting pot full of nearly every language and culture and religion, and it is one of the best mission trips I’ve ever been on.
If it is your first time in the big city, it is intimidating. I suggest you get familiar with the subway system before you go, if you are planning to use that for transportation. Google maps is a great help when you are in the city, as well as Uber (which is going to be more expensive than the Subway).
There are people everywhere. You’ll probably hear ten different languages in one day. Although the movies might show the glamorous side of one of the biggest cities in the world- there is a lot of need for Jesus there.
Nearly a quarter of the people that live in New York are barely making enough for rent and only three months away from being homeless. We took a team of forty people to share love and joy with everyone we met.
We went in March, when it was still fairly cold, but we enjoyed every minute of our time there.
We got to minister to the people at the New York Dream Center.
And pray for those who were in need.
We went on prayer walks throughout the city. All the way from Harlem to Time Square.
We also had the privilege of passing out food and hot chocolate to some people on the street, and hanging out with some kids.
God really opened our eyes to the needs in New York. And that he called to every nation and every tongue, and we were on an island that had every nation and every tongue.
If you want to visit New York, consider going on a mission trip there!
Testimony: How God Provided for My Mission Trips and Believing He Will Do It Again
By: Valerie Garza
I have been a Christian for only three years. However, since committing my life to Christ I have had the privilege of going on seven mission trips! Most of these trips have been domestic, including Dallas, The Oklahoma Dream Center twice, The Los Angeles Dream Center, and The New York Dream Center.
I have also had the opportunity to go to Scotland on a mission trip, and help lead a trip to Panama City, Panama.
Leading up to my trip to Scotland, I did not have a ton of support from my family, because they did not fully understand why I wanted to go on a mission trip. The trip was nearly $3000, so I took extra shifts at work, but was still coming up short on my payments. So I used a with only two weeks before the trip I still needed over $1800 in funds! I thought that I had misheard God, and that I was not actually supposed to go on the trip. As a last minute urge of hope, I opened a gofundme account and pleaded with Facebook friends and family to consider investing in me and in what I knew God had called me to do. Within EIGHT days- barely over a week- $1900 dollars was given to my trip. Not only was I able to go on the trip, but I had some spending money as well! God is so good!
Just when I was beginning to doubt whether He would provide, He exceeded my expectations. I continue to think about this blessing, and thank God for not only leading me to one of the most life-changing trips, but providing a way for me to go.
When I was asked to staff a team of college students to Panama, I was hesitant at first because, once again, money was tight. I prayed and trusted God and agreed to staff the trip. Not even two whole days later, I received a refund from my university that covered the ENTIRE trip! Once again, God blew my expectations out of the water!
I have the AMAZING honor of leading a team on my EIGHTH mission trip in June of 2016 to Battambang, Cambodia. This is my first time in a third world country and will be my first time to officially lead a team of youth and young adults! I am SO excited!
After, God provided for my previous trips, I told myself I would never doubt God’s ability to provide. That being said, the trip to Cambodia is over $2000. I am believing that God will put it on people’s hearts to join me in prayer and in finances so that I am able to lead and love and do all that God has asked me to do in Cambodia.
To see more of Valerie’s adventures follow her on Instagram @valeriegarza and if you would like to help send her to Cambodia go to CAMBODIA!
Since I have been back in the USA, I have been dealing with what they call re-entry shock. After living in Mexico for more than 7 years, immersed in the culture, I was having a hard time re-adjusting to my own culture. I was excited to be back with family and friends. However, things had changed while I was gone, and well, I often found myself feeling out of place. First, I wasn’t the same person, I had grown spiritual, I was married and had children. I wasn’t this 18 year old. I had no idea what people where talking about half the time like in fashion, technology, politics, tv series, redbox and so many more things.
I have learned a few things from the re-entry shock. I love both countries. I love the differences. Not everything has to change. I found these few things to be helpful as I re-entered by own culture and country.
•Embrace my new surroundings and friendships
•Surround myself with people like minded people
•Allow yourself time to readjust to thinking and speaking in your native tongue. (it might still be English but the words or sayings might be a bit different.)
•Find a way to express your experiences (carefully) not to sound pretentious. Know where it is wanted and not
•Stay connect with those who are abroad or working abroad.
•Accept that you’ve changed and so do other people
The best thing to do was to ask questions. Accept that I was different and had different life experiences and that my culture had changed. When people were talking about someone that I had no idea about I’d ask, “what is that?” Yes, I had people starring at me like I was dumb. But who cares. Life is not all about us, which I am sure you have learned by living overseas.
Scotland may seem like a strange place to go on a mission trip, but it is actually quite incredible. As much as I loved the scenery, the architecture and the pastries, it was the people who made Scotland so wonderful.
Although it is not a third world country, less than half of the people who live in Scotland call themselves Christian. So we had the opportunity to minister to hundreds of people in Edinburgh, Dumfries and more.
On our mission trip to Scotland, we had the privilege to stay in a small town called Dumfries. We ventured to Edinburgh as well, but the true beauty of Scotland is in the country-side.
Edinburgh is the biggest city in Scotland, but it was one of the hardest parts of the trip, because so many people there seemed confused and lost. There was a lot of witchcraft and references to evil (that may be compared to Las Vegas).
However, the architecture and the scenery was magnificent!
From the castle in Edinburgh, looking over the entire city. On the other side of the water is England!
In Dumfries, we worked with an amazing church called Lighthouse Church. It’s home is a massive, castle-like convent that sits on the highest point in Dumfries, that they turned into a beautiful sanctuary.
The church and the people are passionate about reaching those in their community. We spent most of our time doing outreaches, evangelism on the streets and serving the people there.
The best part was going to Summerhill- where we got to teach the Scottish children how to play baseball and paint their faces and watch them beat all of us in “futbol.”
We were so sad to leave because of the amazing connections and love we shared with the people of Scotland.
I didn’t start following the Lord wholeheartedly until my junior year of high school. In the summer before my senior year I was applying all over for colleges thinking about my dream school and career. I watched as the price tags started to pop up and began to feel convicted. I had wanted so desperately to be comfortable and to have a career that provided me a lifestyle that was almost excessive. I was so keen on being the next lawyer with a huge paycheck, a cute husband and no problems.
God gave me such peace about walking away from that idea and pursing a year of working, taking classes at a community college and taking a semester overseas doing missions. So after a lot of prayer, and a huge step of faith I applied to spend a semester living in Uganda working in a small village partnering with a local church and secondary school. Fast forward— God used this semester to mold and transform me and call me to missions full time. 13 months later had a one way ticket back to Uganda. I spent the next 7 months working along side a few different organizations that worked with special needs and HIV positive children. Each day God affirmed his calling as I worked alongside in Uganda. I watched God move mountains in so many ways. My passion lit on fire for orphan prevention and community outreach with special needs kiddos. I believe wholeheartedly that children belong in families and poverty should not place children in orphanages. I feel called to walk alongside families and empower them. About 80% of children living in orphanages have families that want to raise them but don’t have the empowerment and resources to do it. Ever since then my passion and calling has been to walk along side these families especially in the special needs community.
Ever since I was little I had always considered adoption and felt drawn to it. About a year ago I felt God bringing the idea of foster care to me. I felt like He wanted me to adopt domestically wherever God had called me. Only four months after that, my commitments in Uganda ended and I felt God open my heart to fostering completely and made the move to Ghana to work as The Assistant Director of The Treasured Ones. After two months of living in Ghana I met my two girls, Rhoda and Priscilla. Two months later my girls came home. Forever. I adopted them officially. Since then, day by day, we have adjusted to life as a family. We’ve fought through a very hard season. In July, Justice who was living in our foster home passed away and it took a huge chunk of our hearts with him.
Over this year I’ve had to bury ten different children with special needs all taking a piece of my heart with them. We have experienced some pretty hard things, but God has used these hard moments to shape us even more.
So that’s our story in a nutshell. However, somedays I spend about 6 hours trying to find a place with electricity to get ice-cream. #saturdaysonthefield.
I served as a missionary this past summer to the nation of Nepal. Nepal is a small country sandwiched between China and India. There are really only two reasons I think you might have heard of Nepal. The first reason is because of Mount Everest. One of my last days there I had the pleasure of flying around Everest in an airplane that can only be described as closer to a paper airplane than a commercial airplane. The second reason is because in April a massive earthquake hit Nepal, killing 9,000 people. So, when we got to Nepal, the situation could only be described as desperate.
In Revelation 7:9-10, we get a glimpse of the throne of God at the end of time:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from e very nation, from all tribes, and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Every nation, tribe, people, and tongue worshiping the Father for who is—the sovereign King–that is what will come to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. That is God’s vision, and as children of God, his heirs, we should have the same heart. As we are growing in our faith, we are changing our hearts to be more like his. This is the essence of Christianity–becoming more like Christ. Therefore, as our heart becomes more like his, our vision becomes the same: That God would be glorified through everyone coming to know him.
The second part of God’s vision is Acts 1:8, where the resurrected Christ says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the Earth.” He wants to use us to accomplish the first part of his vision. He has given us this Spirit of Power to be his witnesses so that every nation, tribe, people, and tongue will be represented before the throne of God. We have not been given this spirit for casual Christianity. We have been given this spirit for sharing! But as beautiful and glorious this vision is, there is a flip side to it. Matthew 24:30 says, “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then a ll the tribes of the Earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
On our second day in Delhi for training they took us to a burn house, a crematorium for devout Hindus. At the burn house they pray over their lost loved ones and perform all kinds of ceremonies. As I was walking through this burn house, smelling the smells of burning flesh, seeing the mourning of families, and knowing the eternal implications of someone being cremated in this place, I became overwhelmed and sat down. Directly in front of where I was sitting was probably ten burning bodies—ten bodies that I can only imagine the horrors of their eternal resting place. Surrounding one of these bodies was a large crowd of people, and as I am watching these people, I see a man leave the crowd and go into a side room. I see him bow down before an idol of Shiva, the god of destruction, and begin to pray. In that moment I got the clearest picture of why God had me in India, why he was sending me to Nepal, and why he brought me to Ole Miss. Every day we are surrounded by people that are on the same path as the people burning at that burn house. They are bowing down to things that promise life and prosperity but in the end will ultimately bring them nothing but death and destruction.
However, there is hope in the one whom all authority has been given to, Jesus Christ. As a result of his authority, we are called to go to our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates, our family members, random people we encounter, and the nations! It is only through opening our mouths and sharing this hope that God’s global vision for the world will be accomplished. Brothers and sisters, I pray that this vision will come a reality for you today and will inspire you to join in God’s global vision.
As I sit out on my deck, procrastinating beginning my second spring course, my thoughts are with my Haitian brothers and sisters. Three weeks ago today, I was on my way to Grand Goâve, Haiti with absolutely no idea of all the wonderful things I was about to experience. It is so difficult to come home and try explain this indescribable and life-changing experience. It was such a privilege to be welcomed with open arms, and smiley loving faces from the moment we arrived. Even amidst terrible living conditions, the Haitians have an appreciation for every single day and receive pure joy from simply loving God. I arrived home having a greater understanding of the power of prayer, and what it means to truly love both God and others. My faith is strengthened, and God has taught me that even though we come from completely different situations, we all work together as many different parts to form one body; the body of Christ. How cool is that? So although a big piece of my heart was left in Haiti, I anxiously await the next opportunity the Lord provides for us to meet again.
Here are some of my favourite pictures from my trip!
Some photos taken on our bus ride from Port-au-Prince to Grand Goave.
One of our worksites in the mountains, the view was breath-taking!
Met a lot of little cuties while house building and was taught how to mortar by Emanuel… he was kind enough to only laugh at my lack of skills a few times.
This was the progress after two days. The house-building period takes three days, and then a waiting period is needed before placing the roof to ensure that everything has dried properly.
May 21st was flag day in Haiti! The school kids were practicing for the parade. It was so fun to watch!
So of course we had to join in!
The joyous worship was incredible. Hard to believe it was a three hour service!
Although this little one thought it was long!
Praying over the food they were receiving.
Team members working in the clothing depot.
The Medical Team!
They saw over 600 patients in five days!
Every child that attends the Lifeline school gets a hot lunch everyday….as long as they bring a bowl!
Our work team at the House Dedication. Sid and Glenna were able to build a home for their sweet sponsor children and what an honour it was to be a part of this special day.
Simon’s sweet new sponsor child Clifton.
They loved their new sunglasses!
We went to visit Clifton’s home. He is currently living with 12 other people (extended family), in a very small 10X10 space after his home was destroyed in the earthquake in 2010. Simon is working on fundraising the necessary funds to build his family a new home as soon as possible.
Our Wonderful Team!
“The body of Christ has many different parts, just as any other body does. Some of us are Jews, and others are Gentiles. Some of us are slaves, and others are free. But God’s Spirit baptized each of us and made us part of the body of Christ. Now we each drink from that same Spirit.” ~1 Corinthians 12:12
What are two of the hardest parts of long –term missions?
Fundraising + Homesickness.
Financial partnership is one of the greatest gifts on the field. Having a team of people come together to support you and the call God has given you is a privilege. However, it has taken a lot of grace, boldness and humility to realize I can’t fund my mission alone. People on the field need people like you to help send us to fulfill God’s call. It can be pretty intimidating to ask for help but when people do join your team its incredible to watch what God can do through partnership. Homesickness can run pretty rampant some days. On the big moments like weddings, birthday’s holidays sometimes a computer screen doesn’t quite cut it. I am so thankful for technology but on those hard days Ghana can feel pretty far away. There are days I long for a coffee run with friends or for a hug from my mama.
When did you first feel called to missions or special needs ministry?
Ever since I began volunteering at a local after school program in middle school I felt the need to be more involved with the special needs community. While serving on several missions’ trips both domestic and international I felt God calling me closer and closer to advocate for both vulnerable and orphaned special needs children. In Uganda a little boy Stephen who has CP crawled his way quickly into my heart and forever changed my life. In February of 2013 I emailed home from rural Uganda and spoke about how God was calling me to commit to a lifetime overseas. I knew God was calling me to serve the overlooked special needs children. From then on out I knew God had big and some pretty overwhelming plans ahead. Today I call Ghana, West Africa home serving as The Assistant Director of the Treasured Ones. We work directly with hospitals, churches and families to help better empower and support families with special needs kiddos and to advocate better for the orphaned special needs. We believe in family preservation and orphan prevention through empowerment schemes and community support. We hope to see a world without overlooked and orphaned special needs children. I am also the single mama of my two littles’ Rhoda and Priscilla.
What is it like to be a mom on the mission field?
Its one of the greatest gifts but it comes with great responsibility. My girls have been through more than any mother can imagine. Yet they walk with their heads held high. They have taught me more about living life for Jesus than any missions trip or sermon. Because of them I love deeper and fight harder for the needs of people around me. Being a mother has taught me what it means to love someone unconditionally and to advocate hard. It has made me more compassionate towards Moms on the field. It has been incredible to watch my girls love the communities we work with in such a deep way.
When did you feel called to Foster/adopt?
Ever since I was little I knew adoption was something I had wanted to pursue. When I became a Christian I saw how God had adopted us into his family. I began to see all the ways Christians could serve the orphans and vulnerable. Currently I am fostering to adopt. I am a huge advocate for both adoption but most importantly orphan prevention. I believe as Christians we should give every opportunity and empower vulnerable communities to prevent orphans. There are so many families forced by poverty, disease and lack of resource that make the decision to relinquish rights to an orphanage in hopes their child will be better cared for there. However if we do our part and partner alongside those families and follow Christ in every moment we can help eliminate poverty orphans. I firmly believe children belong in families. There is also a huge need for families to hear the calling for adoption in countries all over the world. There are so many children waiting all over the world for forever families.
What are the two best parts of being a long term missionary?
One of the best parts of being a missionary long term is being able to set down roots in the community you are serving. You stop being a stranger and you become one of them.
What would you say to someone who is considering doing long term International Missions?
I would say there are a lot of different ways to answer the call. God calls everyone to missions whether sending or going. If you are considering serving long-term talk to your Church (pastors, mentors, peers and your missions department) pray with them, ask them questions and commit to having them keep you accountable. It is so important to have a sound support system to pray, partner and encourage you while you answer the call. You cannot do it alone. It takes a village. Go on some short-term missions all over; see where God is calling you before you buy yourself a one-way ticket. Seek scripture, what are gift God has given you, what are your passions how can you use them in a missions setting. Go with faith! God is with you he will not leave you. There will be hard days this commitment is not a light one. It’s also one that will grow you, stretch and teach you in ways you didn’t even know were possible.
For more of Meghan’s story and her adventures in Ghana, go to lemonslimesandlaughter.wordpress.com
Sixteen months ago I flew home from an amazing 6 weeks spent in Paris, France.
When I tell people that I spent part of my summer in Paris, they tend to assume I was vacationing, traveling or studying abroad. As I proceed to tell them I was on a mission trip, their eyes glaze over with a confused look. Paris is not the typical place you expect to hear people being sent to on a mission trip. My mind naturally jumps to Africa, the Dominican Republic, or Haiti – third world countries or slums. The truth is yes all these places need Jesus- Paris included.
Throughout my 6 weeks, God was at work not only in the lives of the Parisian students, but in mine as well. As I instantly fell in love with the city, God was creating a love in me that went much deeper. My heart was broken for the Parisians I was meeting each day. In many third world countries, people need to be sent to serve and to share the concept of who Jesus even is. However, in a place like Paris, they already have an idea of who they think God is.
They look at Christianity as a thing of the past government, as outdated, as a set of strict rules that no one would ever want to follow. To sum it up, they see Christianity as an old, washed up religion and not as an amazing, indescribable, grace filled relationship with God, our Father and creator.
As I built relationships with students it was common to be told I was the first Christian they had met that was their age. As I talked about this relationship with God, it was something they had never heard of. God showed me how He grieved for them and gave me His heart for Paris.
Fast forward to now-the end of October 2015, sixteen months later. God has provided me with another opportunity to go to Paris. This time, I will be leading a team of students from the University of Minnesota on a mission trip for 9 days over Thanksgiving. There is currently a team of 11 people (5 are from the U of M!) currently spending a year of their lives serving the Lord in Paris reaching these college aged students.
Our group will be working with them throughout our time, providing them with the much needed laborers. In Matthew 9, Jesus calls His disciples telling them, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” I am so excited for this second adventure running after Christ, trusting Him to use me and our team as He leads these Parisian students into His love and forgiveness.
As I am three weeks away from heading over the Atlantic, I ask for your prayers!
▪For the Parisian students hearts to be open to conversations about Jesus
▪For endurance the long term team currently there
▪For relationships to be built between students and the long term team through our conversations
▪For the Thanksgiving outreach that will be put on
▪For our team’s safety and effectiveness working together on the trip
Ultimately, my continuous prayer is that God’s name would be glorified.
“Let them give glory to the Lord and declare His praise.” Isaiah 42:12
[Mission trips take financial means and therefore Lexa’s team is raising support. If God has put it on your heart to give in any way, just let her know by email at email@example.com]
For more of Alexa’s journey, go to https://alexajones7.wordpress.com
Japan. At first, the concept was, quite literally, foreign. I hadn’t thought much about the culture of Japan, much less traveling there. However, as I grew up and began to experience more and more of God’s goodness in my life, particularly in high school, I began to realize that I wanted to share that goodness with others.
As a budding musician, I know that my career will involve travel around the world and interaction with people with different views and religions and cultures than I have. Learning to communicate with other people is a skill that I need to learn. Traveling to Japan gave me the confidence, the experience, and the love I will need to be successful as a God-honoring pianist.
Having my grandparents with me allowed me to see a different side of Japan than I would have seen going with my youth group or with people closer to my own age. Instead of seeing the modern Japan and interacting more with kids and teenagers, I got to experience more of a family environment. I saw the effect of teaching kids and watching them teach their parents, and teaching parents and seeing them guide their kids in God’s Word. Because I was placed in such a diverse environment, I am becoming prepared to minister to people of all ages.
While in Japan, I met so many amazing people, and I got to spend time with friends of mine, the Horiis. Hanna and Ruth joined my family in Texas four years ago. We got to know them and taught them about life in Texas, and when they left, we gave them the promise of coming to see them soon. In September of 2014, I was able to follow up on that promise, and I spent four days with them at their house in Japan.
Hanna and Ruth took me to Harajuku, Shibuya, and many other cities across Japan to experience their own culture. We met their friends, I learned a little Japanese, and I had some of the best food I’ve ever had. But most importantly, I was able to experience two different church services, both very different from what I experience at home. The first was held in the home of a family friend, and the service included about eight teenagers, four adults, and three kids under the age of twelve. We sang, played games, and heard a message from one of the adults about how God had turned his heart from selfishness and greed into a heart of love and charity, which was followed shortly by the opening of a student ministry. The second service, a much larger service targeted at adults, was a very spirit-filled and moving experience. Not only did I have the amazing privilege of giving my first concert, I was amazed at the openness of the adults and their closeness to God.
Neither of these services were anything close to what I experienced, and continue to experience at home. In my church, people are polite, people don’t like over-doing things, and if you are disruptive in the service, you get strange looks and people begin to whisper behind your back. In Japan, I saw the same raw belief, emotion, and love in every environment I was in.
Having grown up in a Christian family, I was raised in the Word and I have already seen the love that accompanies God’s Word. However, I also recognize that that love has not been shared with everyone. It is my duty, as well as my passion, to share God’s love and His plan for all of us around the world while sharing my love for music with them.