Of Course It Was Bad

I got back from a 10 day work trip with 51 people yesterday, 40 of them high school students. I’ve got four posts for the week reflecting on it. 

First off: of course it was bad. 

When I stepped off the bus and onto our church parking lot pavement, a parent asked me, “Everything go okay?” I reflexively answered, “No.”

He seemed startled. So I expanded with some guilt about how things are bound to go wrong in a 10 day mission effort involving that many people. On balance, the trip was good–great even: transformative, powerful, encouraging. But some things were off. Hundreds of mosquito bites, too little sleep, arguments, a midnight ER visit. 

The power of mission comes from the things that go badly more than the things that go well. The leaders of our trip became experts in arranging restaurant meals from 51 people, and they all went incredibly well, given the challenges. But I doubt our students will carry an impression of those meals as deep as the one made by their unexpected early morning embrace of a student who had to make an unplanned early departure. 


Also, if nothing goes badly, what are we learning?

8 thoughts on “Of Course It Was Bad

  1. Rocky, that all sounds about right. Plus, that is a HUGE group to take anywhere. I have been leading and helping lead mission trips for 20 years and rarely have I had one go off without any hiccups. I know you’re not looking for kudos or a self-esteem boost, but you probably did better than you think and the trip was probably a lot better than you think in the minds of the youth.

    I’m always surprised when I hear years later from a then-youth-now-adult reflect on their experience of some event or trip we went on and they speak with such fondness about how transformative the experience was fo them (and often I remember being harried and feeling overwhelmed and frustrated because things weren’t going well). Perspective is important.

    I’m glad to hear you can see the bright spots and the transformation that I’m sure happened. You are an amazing leader and an awesome pastor! Trust the gifts God has given you.

    1. Thanks Eric. You’ll be glad to know we had a student and an adult leader from San Bernardino. I have a young adult here who is about to become a YAV and who went on scads of work trips. She recently told me that the one that had the most impact on her life was the one that I have always thought was the worst.

  2. If things go wrong you are learning a lot. The kids are learning some also but hopefully they are learning more from the trip itself and what they are doing. Talk to your Aunt about all the things that she’s experienced ( lost passports, hospital visits, stuck in elevators for hours, ships broken down etc. I think it’s kind of expected with her.)

  3. Tucson CPC PYG work project junior year. The all couples trip except for 4 of the 16 kids. More time spent chaperoning than transforming for our advisors I fear. And 2 teeth knocked out of the 5 year old of one advisor (I accompanied to ER). Very fond memories and an important part of my faith journey. 🙂

  4. Hi rocky…when bob was a youth minister we went to Blackwater Arizona to put a roof on a church that was unfinished ..we had twent some kids..we slept on the concrete floor and the gender issue was addressed by sheets strung on a rope down the middle of the unfinished sanctuary(it didn’t work) we did our ow cooking …no bathroom facilities..it was bad( especially for the minister’s east coast wife)the Indian congregation was silent and rather non welcoming until the 6 th or 7th day…I remember it fondly as a developmental experience and one of those kids went to Africa as a social worker and the other became a Presbyterian minister(both of whom keep in touch with me)Only God knows the hearts of all who went on your trip..we cannot second guess God..I thank God for your honesty and for you xo Dee Kelley Sent from my iPad


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