Mission trips: Why it’s worth it
Hinduism teaches that a man is simply the product of his thoughts. Secular humanism says we are the product of our environment. A poster in my high school cafeteria declared, “You are what you eat.” But God says, in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” While I agree that our thoughts, our environment, and even our food can affect our character and actions, it is God who shapes us into the men and women He wants us to be. God has used one thing in my life to shape me more than anything else.
It wasn’t a seminar or a near-death experience. It was a trip to visit missionaries in the Islands of Papua New Guinea (PNG). In March 2013, I traveled to the city of Rabaul in the East New Britain Province of PNG to visit veteran missionaries Richard and Joyce Crotts. The Crotts are “do-it-all” missionaries, working closely with four different village churches, two Christian schools, and a Bible Institute, besides ministering in the local public schools. They have served for over 30 years in the Islands and have endured some incredible experiences. They have survived multiple bouts of malaria, lost a home in a volcanic eruption, and counseled families through tribal fighting.
But they have also been very blessed, training and sending out dozens of pastors and missionaries, starting several churches, and creating one of the most popular children’s radio programs in the country. There are some great benefits to visiting a mission field. For someone such as I, born and raised in the United States without an opportunity to travel abroad, a mission trip helps broaden your perspective and shows you just how blessed we are to live in America. It is good to view the ministry firsthand to meet the people you are praying for.
It also shows the people on the mission field that you care for them so much that you’re not only praying for and supporting them financially, but you’re willing to take time away from your schedule and spend it with them. There are obvious hurdles when considering a mission trip, but they are not insurmountable. Any time you travel overseas, it is expensive. Airfare alone for my trip to PNG was around $3,000.
Besides the finances, a trip of this nature creates a big hole in your schedule. To be productive, you need to schedule at least two weeks with the missionary you’re visiting. Add in two days of travel each way and a day to recover from jetlag, and you’ve committed three full weeks to the cause. And then there is culture shock. In PNG, this includes daily temperatures of over 100 degrees, eating some very different foods, and leaving behind every stitch of civilization. Let me tell you why it’s worth it, and why you should take a mission trip. My trip started with a visit to the village hospital, where a man of the church lay dying.
As I walked with Missionary Crotts into the open-air hospital, I noticed that it didn’t feel like a hospital. There was a long, open room lined with beds on either side, but there were no doctors or nurses. There were no monitors beeping out the rhythm of the patient’s heart rates and no oxygen machines with tubes and masks. The patient had been a laborer at a local plantation, and a coworker was at his bedside, caring for him. This man would soon slip into eternity, his body bent and withered from years of working the mineral-rich soil.
Just two days later we would gather around a hand-dug grave and lay him to rest in the same soil that gave him life. His passing would be as humble as his living, his wooden casket adorned with the worn-out shovel he clutched every day. As Missionary Crotts read from the Bible and the small crowd of friends began to sing a hymn, the men in the group took turns with the shovels, replacing the volcanic soil into the hole where the casket now lay. It was then that it hit me … this man had never owned a pair of shoes, never read a book, and had never felt the breeze from an air conditioner. But, because he had accepted Christ as his Savior, he is now walking streets of gold. He left behind nothing and stepped into everything. Jesus said in John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you … ” Can you imagine the thrill in that man’s soul as he stepped into the glory of Heaven? One of these days I’ll know that thrill for myself.
As a pastor, I love to share God’s Word. My trip to PNG afforded me two dozen opportunities to preach in churches, missions, and even public schools. One of those schools was the Kokopo Secondary School. The headmaster of the school is a Christian and gathered all of the 10th and 11th grade students for an assembly where I was to sing and preach. Music plays a big part in the culture of PNG, and the students listened intently as I played the guitar and sang a couple of songs. I then opened God’s Word to Acts 26:28 where King Agrippa told Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”
I challenged them to settle the question in their own hearts, and many responded by accepting Jesus as their Savior. One of the young men who came forward that day was Peniel, a strong 17-year-old with many friends. He tearfully admitted that he had been “almost” a Christian many times, but had yet to make a definite decision. He realized that he was a sinner in need of a Savior and prayed to invite Jesus Christ to live in his heart. After arriving home later that evening, Peniel’s parents noticed a change in their son. Something was “brighter” in his face, and he seemed less troubled with the cares of the day. They learned that evening that he had made a decision for Christ, and he pleaded with them to make the same decision.
The following Sunday morning, Peniel showed up at Kokopo Bible Baptist Church with his parents and a younger sister. They wanted to learn more about the change in him, and after hearing the preaching from Pastor Burua Sialis, they, too, accepted Christ into their hearts. They were all overjoyed, and young Peniel shed tears of joy as he expressed his thanks to God. He would soon learn that God wasn’t finished with the changes in him and his family.
Peniel’s father had been offered a promotion at work and was considering accepting the position. With the promotion, however, they would have had to move to a different village, far away from family and friends and with no Bible-believing church. He announced that he was declining the offer because he wanted his family to learn more from the Pastor and the Bible. He then decided that he was going to enroll in the Islands Bible Baptist Institute, established by Missionary Crotts, in order to fulfill a burden that God had placed on his heart.
He and his wife will soon be in the ministry, helping others to see that there is a God who loves them and wants the best for them. It was here that another thought hit me like a ton of bricks. Although it was God who orchestrated the change in Peniel’s family, He allowed me to have a little part in it. That day I stood at the school and played my guitar, I didn’t realize what was in store.
When I sang my songs and made the kids giggle and cheer, I didn’t know that young Peniel was struggling in his heart. When I read the words of King Agrippa, I didn’t know that Peniel had whispered those same words. What if I had not studied the Scripture that God had placed on my heart? What if I had been unprepared to sing? What if I hadn’t even gone? I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might … ” Everything we do can make an impact on those around us. With some people, you’ll only have one chance, so make it count.
The climax of my visit to PNG was “Easter Camp.” This is similar to summer camp, but with PNG’s extreme climate, Easter is a better time of year for camping. The event is held over two days at a secluded agricultural training campus. The facilities are sparse, with a couple of brick buildings serving as dormitories and a large tin-roofed shelter as the tabernacle. Several churches bring in their young people and adults; there were 250 in attendance. Under the tin roof, with the South Pacific sun beating down, God convicted me of a final thought: These dear people traveled from all over the province just to hear God’s Word. Some had to cross the ocean from smaller islands, leaving home two days prior just to arrive in time. They came to sleep on the ground and to sit in the heat.
Some arrived on foot, walking the dirt roads through miles of bush country. I was awestruck to see that many of the smaller groups had one Bible between them. That Bible was shared during each sermon and lesson, held tightly by the youngster in the middle of each group. It was during one of the lessons that I couldn’t hold back the tears. Just to see the huddled heads of four or five young people reading with wonder from the same tattered Bible made my heart break. I, like many of my pastor friends, have a stack of Bibles in my office. Some of these people can only dream of having a Bible of their own.
When it was all over, 206 souls had accepted Christ during my two weeks in Papua New Guinea. God used my trip to mold me and make me into a better dad, a better husband, and a better servant. I have seen firsthand how God loves all of His children. He has shown me that everything we do in this life has the potential to affect someone around us. And He has reminded me just how blessed I am, although I often forget.
Realizing the ways my trip has changed me, I have planned a return trip in spring of 2015, this time with my wife and daughters. While we have many hurdles to jump to finalize the details, I think you’ll agree with me that the benefits far outweigh the costs.
Jeff Quigley is the pastor of Liberty Baptist Church of Lamar, MO. He and his wife Angela have two daughters whom they homeschool at their southwest Missouri farm. Learn more about the Quigleys at www.LibertyLamar.org.
Copyright, 2015. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine, 2015 Print Edition. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.