I was 17 years old when I went on my first international missions trip to Panama to do medical work in some extremely remote places along the gulf coast of the narrow country. It was this experience, in part, that compelled me not only to ministry, but specifically toward working to reach the least reached. A missions trip literally changed the course of my life. Then God called us to plant a church in the heart of Silicon Valley. Not exactly the same kind of jungle – and yet, every spectrum of ethnic and social diversity from around the planet is found within a small radius of the elementary school our church plant currently meets in. Which brings me to this past summer…
Last month, I had the privilege of taking two other folks with me from LifeCity – Robert Sanders and Liz Reyes – to join our friends at Ocean View Church of San Diego for a missions trip across the border, into Tijuana, Mexico. For years, Ocean View has been taking teams of people into Mexico to work with orphanages, provide food, give to communities and families in ways they seldom get to experience, and most importantly – share the gospel in meaningful, personal ways. They like to call it “Beans, Rice, and Jesus Christ!” And for us, it was the beginning of a vision God began in my heart as a teenager in Panama.
Enoc Rivera, a Mexican-raised pastor on staff at OVC, has been preparing with his church family to move across the border sometime in 2017 with another family from the church, in order to plant a daughter church in the middle of the impoverished colinas (“hills”) outside the city of Tijuana. I personally made it my mission to bug him the entire week we were with him in the country, trying to get a grasp on the calling and challenges they were stepping into – and how we as a church plant that received support from OVC can now return the favor by partnering with their newest mission to spread the gospel into Mexico.
Sometime this next year, we anticipate having Enoc and his wife Betty, up to Santa Clara to join us and share the vision directly with our LifeCity peeps… and yes, we’re planning on going back to Tijuana next summer with them, hopefully with six to a dozen of our folks this time.
When you see the overwhelming need, disadvantages, and living conditions these kids and families accept as everyday life – and then match that with the joy and gratitude they express for being the hands and feet of Christ to them – it’s indescribable. And all of these emotions are just the tip of the iceberg when you realize that because you took the time and energy to go on this trip, God was using you to show His love toward them. It’s a tidal wave of experiences that will move you long after the trip is over.
I’ve shamelessly ripped the mantra that Ocean View uses to express their commitment to sending people to do ministry across borders: “Go on a missions trip – it’ll change your life.”
It changed my life as a teenager 17 years ago this summer. And because of that experience for me, I’m now a pastor getting to lead others into the same kind of life-changing experiences. It is my sincerest prayer that one day, we’ll be sending dozens or hundreds of men and women into ministry here, near, and far away just like God did in my life… just like he’s doing in Enoc’s life.
Go on a missions trip… it will change your life.