Almost everything about a mission trip stretches youth toward growth, which is why I continue to find value in them. They stretch me too.
Sleeping on a floor stretches one’s ability to endure discomfort, just as sitting with a homeless person and listening to their story stretches one’s understanding of success and one’s assumptions about their own future.
Sharing simple meals tugs at one’s stomach, while trying to lead a class of 30 swearing fourth graders pulls one’s patience to near breaking.
Words like “solidarity” stretch your notions of help and service and make you wonder how you might need to change in order to justify your time spent doing things “for” the needy.
Here’s the thing, though. Comfort is relative. The teenager who volunteers at a food bank today may be receiving food bank donations back home. Many youth on mission trips know all too well how needy people live; they don’t require a trip to an inner city in another state to show them hunger or abuse or isolation.
Yet they show a remarkable ability to endure mission trip-type strain and to grow beneath your nose, moving in every challenge toward a vision of the just and the good and toward a future where they are the agents who bring that about.
Thank God for the strain and the stretch.