This is a question that I’m receiving more and more these days. I’m always glad to hear it because it means someone else has already come to understand just how important it is to be a “player” and not just a “fan” with their Christian lives.
So which mission opportunity is right for you? The Amazon? South Africa? Moldova? (It doesn’t have to be a JMI trip, but participating in a mission trip with friends from your own church does increase your sense of connection with the people with whom you worship and share life).
Here are 3 questions you might want to think and pray over when considering a mission trip:
- Where is your passion?
- What might you need to let go of in your life in order to become available to God’s purposes?
- How do your gifts and experience factor in?
Generically, I suspect that God implants a passion and giftedness within people for one cause or another, assuming they’re open to that, and it’s probably a good rule of thumb to pay attention to that. But I also have a suspicion that there are cases where He calls us to the places that are the least comfortable, where we have the least amount of control, and potentially where our own skill sets appear to be the least applicable….all to demonstrate that the power is in His hands and not ours as well as to break and mold us in the ways we wouldn’t have imagined otherwise. As I’ve said before, to change us in all the ways we need to be changed.
As you grapple with those mysteries, here’s what I can tell you about the upcoming South Africa, Amazon, and Moldova trips:
JMI and Rolling Hills have a unique privilege of working in South Africa with the world’s leading church-based ministry serving persons vulnerable to or suffering with HIV/AIDS, Living Hope, based in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town. Living Hope works in a variety of capacities aimed at preventing the spread of HIV and slowing the effects of AIDS, along with basic life skills education, drug and alcohol recovery, and work with all facets of defenseless children and teenagers. Rolling Hills works among the various communities in which Living Hope serves, but primarily in the shanty township of Red Hill, located near scenic Simon’s Town.
Red Hill is a community of around 600 people, loosely segregated into three “camps,” or communities based on ethnic or national ancestry. The prevalence of HIV infection in Red Hill is far higher than the national average, which alone is the highest in the world. Unemployment is also rampant in Red Hill, with only around 25% of inhabitants being employed on a semi-fulltime basis. The people of Red Hill are growing in their devotion to Jesus, though, and many have come to know the Lord in recent years, primarily young people. Year-round, RHCC and JMI work in Red Hill to provide food as well as life skills education and community development. Trips to South Africa include a retreat for all Living Hope Life Skills Educators, work with support groups, health care and testing clinics, construction, and kids’ clubs in Red Hill, as well as support for Celebrate Recovery, which Living Hope is implementing through its Living Grace ministry in Muizenburg.
Because of Cape Town’s first class infrastructure, travel to Cape Town is direct out of several worldwide gateway cities. It is a long trip, but accommodations provided by The Team House (www.theteamhouse.com) are top notch and incredibly helpful in a foreign land, making up for the lengthy flights. Tetanus boosters are the only required medication for travelers to Cape Town, while some get Hepatitis A vaccines if they have not traveled overseas much. The trip usually lasts 12 days, in which time participants will have the opportunity to see many of the wonders of the Western Cape, Africa’s southernmost tip and near the junction of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. The cost is typically near $3,100, which is all inclusive. Trips are usually scheduled in late winter/early spring (which is late summer/early fall in South Africa–the best time of the year to visit the Cape!).
What we’ve experienced in the Amazon are people along the rivers who are isolated, poor, have intestinal parasites, no vegetables because of the rising and falling of the river during the drought and rainy seasons, no work opportunities, dangerous environmental conditions for their children, in some cases inadequate access to schools, homes that can’t be repaired for lack of simple things like nails, girls who marry early (and sometimes unwisely) as an aspect of their culture, impossible or inadequate access to medical and dental care, lack of training in many areas, etc. JMI has church partners focusing on planting and training pastors in villages, building homes, churches and schools and doing VBS type day-events in the villages. Our focus at RHCC is providing more variety of food and work opportunities by establishing self-sustaining chicken farms and vegetable gardens, providing some parenting training for mothers, setting up water purification barrels and providing medical/dental assistance when we have people with those skill sets on the trip. I suspect that this year’s trip will be a lot of manual labor, hoeing up gardens, fertilizing and seeding them and touching on some of the other goals as we have opportunity. We’re also hoping to really identify with the four villages we’ve established relationships with by becoming more involved in their cultures, whether that be by attending some of their ceremonial dances, hunting and fishing with the men or helping the women string beads. In these ways we hope to develop enduring trust and friendships.
On the Amazon trip we live and eat on a double-decker boat, sleep in hammocks with mosquito netting, shower using river water, take malaria pills (and there is an inoculation for yellow fever along with a recommendation for for hepatitis A and B shots). The food is great and provided by a cook for us. In addition to interacting with tribal people right out of National Geographic, we occasionally fish for piranha, spotlight Cayman alligators at night and go on a nature walk with a jungle guide in which they show us how the people use the forest to survive. The cost of the trip will probably be about $2300-$2500, but there are also expenses for the inoculations and a visa that can be pricy for a first trip. We can only take about 12 people due to the space limitations…am hoping we have enough interest to plan a fall trip as well!
In Moldova you’d be working with true and social orphans in a country that has been devastated by poverty and corruption. The kids are amazingly warm and receptive, very trusting and very naive, which is their blessing and their curse. They will absolutely steal your heart. The trip usually costs about $2500….could be less if the dollar strengthens against the Euro and we can get better flight pricing. JMI has its own staff there and our experience in Moldova goes back to 1999 and we know how to manage all the aspects of a successful trip. Another plus is getting to incorporate the kids from our transitional living programs into our day-to-day activities. They are also extremely endearing and fun, as are our staff members.
Our work consists of providing summer camping experiences for orphaned, abandoned and destitute kids. We communicate through interpreters and, in the past, have enjoyed a great deal of freedom in presenting the gospel, despite the State’s authority over the institutions. We enjoy comfortable living arrangements, great food and meaningful access to the children.