By Don Robinson
One of the biggest things to impact me on mission trips is the connections between the people. I see this both within the mission team itself and the community that we are going to serve.
First, there is always a strong connection within the mission team. The trip allows for every team member to get to know and grow closer to someone that they didn’t know or casually knew from church to form a deeper and more meaningful relationship. I have been very fortunate in this regard; I’ve met individuals on previous trips that I didn’t know and have been able to grow and nurture those relationships to develop some close and dear friends. During this trip, I was able to meet new team members and start new friendships. These connections have grown outside the walls of Mount Carmel where we went from being a Mount Carmel only trip to a Mount Carmel led trip with several individuals and groups from surrounding churches. It was amazing to see a group of eighty-plus people going out every day for a week and working outside in the blistering heat and not complaining about it, but looking forward to the next day to get up and do it again.
Second is the connection to the communities that we go to serve. We get the opportunity and honor to meet and help people who have had tragedy strike them both individually and in their community. We are God’s hands and feet in telling them that they are loved and cared for. In a world where disasters are only important in the news until the next tragedy or disaster strikes, it is easy to feel forgotten. The need for help and relief doesn’t follow the news cycles. Tim told a story on this trip of how one homeowner was brought to tears when he told her that we’d have a group spruce and clean up her flower garden. This simple act of kindness brought so much joy and hope to the homeowner. When her neighbors saw what the group was doing, several came and asked for help in their own flower gardens. To me, this is a great example of how Mount Carmel was acting as the hands and feet not only to one individual, but to a larger community.
My daughter and I were working on a project and needed some small supplies. We went to the local hardware store to purchase the items needed. When one of the other customers saw our mission team shirts he insisted on paying for the items. He said that we were there blessing his community, including his own daughter, so it was the least that he could do to help. I had to return to that hardware store later in the week and the store owner, and other customers recognized me again by the shirt, and they thanked me again for the work that we were doing for their neighbors.
Every year at the end of the week we all wish that we could have done more. I have said many times that we have accomplished what God wanted us to get done. I am not a runner by any stretch of the imagination, but I think a running analogy works well for these trips. We go to these communities as a team. Some of the team works on projects that can be started and completed in our allotted time there; these are our sprinters and short-distance runners. There are others who either start or pick up in the middle of a project to complete their part. Sometimes they are able to complete the project and some they have to leave for a future team. These are the relay racers; they complete their leg of the race and pass the baton on to the next team.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if it is a short-term project or a long-term one; the most important thing is to show that we are the Church in action by being the hands and feet of Christ.