Preparing for the Mission Trip and What I’ve Learned So Far
“I need you to stand right over here.” the lady said, guiding me to the proper spot with a gloved hand on my arm. I smiled at her and complied, finding the tall desk with the machine atop it in front of me.
“Left hand please.”
I felt the cool, soggy touch of a paper towel as she wiped off my thumb. She lifted my hand and pressed the digit against the warm glass of the machine, and was rewarded with a business-like, “beep”.
Yes, this was me getting finger printed, and no, not for the reason you are thinking. I am NOT a blind-supremacist criminal. The blind protection agency has turned over a new leaf—I promise.
No, my finger prints were necessary for my charity workers visa, which I need in order to participate in my mission trip to Scotland with RP Missions.
If there is one thing I’ve learned about opportunity, it’s that it’s not always easy. In fact, more often than not, it takes a great deal of preparation, and committed care to carry out. When I felt God calling me to missions back in October, I didn’t really think about all of the pre-cursory work that would need to be done before we entered the field. I was too wrapped up in financial considerations to think much about travel plans, team instruction, or spiritual development. That is, I knew they were all part of the process, but I underestimated the way they would affect my second semester as a whole.
It all began in late December, as I filled out the online application, wrote the required essays, and secured recommendation letters. I had already decided that the calling I had felt to missions work was legitimate, but actually submitting the application made the whole thing real to me. Suddenly, I felt rather like I was jumping off an airplane, without quite knowing how to release the parachute. This particular leap of faith was going to take more faith than I had realized.
The next weeks were crowded with activities, as I returned to Nashville and resumed my many collegiate pursuits: attending class, studying, practicing, performing, studying, occasionally cleaning, and practicing (Did I mention practicing?). Soon, it was late February, and readying for our mission trips began in
earnest. We received emails instructing us about how to handle fund raising, how to go about making travel plans, and the paperwork we would need in order to travel overseas. We also began attending weekly, online training sessions, led by RP Missions’ wonderful director Mat Filbert, where we learn about various topics related to missions, from discussing the very purpose of missionary work, to exploring some of the challenges we might encounter during our time there and how we might overcome them. Our sessions have been useful too, in that they have in many ways informed my personal preparation time. Not only were the missionary handbook and reading list they provided helpful, but their suggestion to go through the book of Acts has been instrumental for me. I don’t know why, but it never previously occurred to me that studying the way Jesus’ earliest followers handled missions might be a good way to figure out how to do it myself. (Don’t judge me, I’m a blonde)
Of course, the problem I ran into was: all of these things take time! research, Training sessions, bible study, fund raising, phone calls, flight plans, and paperwork didn’t get finished in some sort of quantum vacuum. I was happy to be doing them, but they were minutes I would have otherwise spent… you guessed it—studying or practicing. However, it did teach me an important lesson; my relationship with Christ IS something I have to (and should want to) MAKE time for, not an assignment I can push off until midnight. Umm, hello Shea! We are talking “God of the Universe, King of All Creation wants to have a personal relationship with you” here, not music theory homework!
It also gave me a new sense of purpose. I have a responsibility to the people I will serve in Scotland, to be as well-equipped as I can possibly be. That means my relationship with Christ and my knowledge about His Kingdom has to be the priority, if not for my own sake, then for the sake of others. Maybe that’s not how it should be, but it motivates me for the moment.
So (to conclude this outrageously long entry) hurray! Most of the practical preparation (paperwork, flights, etc) has been completed, and I am free to concentrate fully on the spiritual side of things. As my sweet, former-roommate would say, “Rejoice!”