I can give you all sorts of reasons to only give that STAMP 2017 brochure a passing glance.
The trips are for people with summers off or whose kids are out of the house or who are young and full of energy or who aren’t scraping to make ends meet or who are already connected to the missions department and know the missionaries personally.
I get all that. Last summer I said good-bye to my three- and one-year-old sons and boarded a plane for a country I had never visited to work with people who didn't share my culture or mother tongue. Even as I was sitting on the plane I wondered, “Is this the right choice? Is this the right time? I am going to wake up each day with only a faint idea of what I would be doing.” Not exactly the most encouraging way to begin a missions trip as I sort of counted the cost—both financial and personal—of my short-term missions trip.
I discovered that it was so worth it.
During the College Church trip to the Island of Lesvos, Greece, last summer, the Lord performed a priceless work in my heart. As we walked into the refugee camp for the first time, my first impression was the lack of accommodations. I knew that refugee camps weren’t fancy, but I expected people would at least have a cot to sleep on.
In truth, many did have cots, but as we first walked into the camp, the main path was littered with cardboard that people used as a layer between themselves and the harsh gravel as they slept on the ground in makeshift tents of blankets, tarps and cardboard.
As you can imagine, I came home from this trip different. God broadened my understanding for the plight of the refugee as well as the residents of the countries receiving refugees. I came back burdened to pray for the lost. Suddenly, my complaints that seemed legitimate only weeks before vanished into thankfulness.
The Bible teaches that evil cannot triumph over God’s great redemption plans. I believed that truth for years, but last summer I saw it come to life in the faces of new believers at the camp. So how does that work itself out in a refugee camp? The more I learned the reasons that caused people to leave their countries, the more complicated, complex and bewildering a solution seemed to be. My mind searched for a way to fix the problem, but God was working through it.
One day, I sat on a bench by a gate and listened to a man who had escaped ISIS in Iraq. He recalled how he had always desired to know who God was, and it was at the camp, through conversations and friendships with some of the relief workers, he came to know God in the person of Jesus. He described his journey as a refugee as painfully awful but also a wonderful gift of the Lord drawing him to himself. I glimpsed the glory of the truth I so easily believed magnified in the face and voice of this new believer.
Now don’t get me wrong, there may be legitimate reasons not to go on a short-term missions trip this year. God does not call everyone to every trip every year. But don’t count yourself out just yet. Consider and pray if this is something God has for you. Not doing so might mean missing out on some beautiful blessings from the Lord.
To help nudge you along the way, here is where you can apply to the 2017 STAMP trips, including a return trip to this refugee camp. Application deadline is February 5.